Kansas City: Why is There a Tech Talent Gap in a Booming Technology Hub?

businessman hand working with modern technology and digital layer effect as business strategy concept-2Business Insider just recorded Kansas City, Missouri as making the list of 20 places you can go to get a great tech job outside of Silicon Valley. To those of us local to the area, this really isn't a surprise.

 he city is thriving with tech opportunities and it's not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. According to Business Insider, Kansas City is seeing a "growth trend in tech jobs of 157% year after year". So much so that we are now dealing with a shortage of tech talent. But, are we really?

Programs like LaunchCode, Centriq Training, and many others are experiencing full classes where the next group of network engineers and developers are learning the skills they need to be successful in the industry. So, why are we struggling to find talent in our own backyards? Perhaps it has to do with the very reactive way business is done. Organizations are booming and churning out solutions, websites, and client expectations so fast that their company’s current workforce is unable to keep up.

Great problem to have, right? Not exactly. With everyone competing for the same group of talent, the rates of such positions are pushed through the roof. Who is overwhelmingly their target? The IT person with 3-5 years of experience (the "sweet spot”) which these companies want and need. On the other hand, tech newbies are having a hard time finding work. It's that catch 22 merry-go-round...

Company: "I need someone with 3-5 years’ experience..."

Candidate: "...but how do I get 3-5 years’ experience if nobody gives me a chance?"

How can cities like Kansas City take steps to change their tech talent gap?


Invest in Local Talent Pools

As a city, I think Kansas City can do a much better job of growing our talent pool. Investing in local talent often impresses clients and candidates alike. It proves that you are committed to investing in the growth of your area, the well-being of its citizens, and the health of the local economy.

We have fantastic farm teams that are training and developing talent and yet, we lose them every day to other markets because we rarely call on them to show us what they can do. When I hear companies brag about the great talent they sourced from the Philippines, Brazil, etc., it is disappointing. It’s understandable, there's a job to get done, and you can't wait 3-5 years for the newly graduated "farm teams" to be ready.


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Forecasting Technology Staffing Needs

What surprises me overall is how businesses did not see the talent gap coming. It’s a problem that extends beyond Kansas City. Organizations as a whole need to improve the ability to forecast their business needs to project what kind of influx in work they will have at a certain time of the year.

Building business models so far off that you are unable to have a fairly accurate idea of your company growth year after year is frustrating. Without proper workforce planning, companies are left scrambling to fill positions right this minute, and will tend to look to other sources outside the area to fill positions quickly.


Rethinking How to Hire Tech Talent

What it comes down to is that companies need to rethink how they hire tech talent. They need to focus on skills and competencies instead of experiences on paper. According to a recent survey, 51 percent of CFOs polled are now considering entry-level applicants for roles that, historically, were reserved for more experienced applicants.

We have a lot of amazing developers and engineers right here in Kansas City, and we are losing them to other markets because we continue to be reactive instead of proactive. Now, I know that we can't always put out the fires before they start, but we need to at least try. I see outsourcing and off-shoring as a last resort, but let’s try to take chances and nurture the new, existing talent we have locally. 



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