Guest Post: How IT Industry and Education Can Save Ailing Cities

By November 9, 2012 Careers

IT-ology Blog reader Bree Hernandez writes today about the connection between high-tech education and local economic growth — thoughts that tie in really well with last week’s post about where students can find the hottest IT jobs. Bree is a web-based education writer whose work may help you figure out if a grad degree is right for you.

How Industry Could Partner with Advanced Education and High Tech Masters Programs to Save Ailing Cities

In the US and around the globe, thriving economies increasingly count on tech industries to propel their growth and maintain their stability. An analysis from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that science, technology and innovation played a significant role in economic performance in recent years, with multi-factor productivity increases in countries such as Australia, Denmark, Finland, Norway and the US. The gains largely came from greater efficiency in the use of labor and capital, as well as improved managerial practices, organizational change, and smarter, more innovative ways of producing goods and services. Of course, in the years since the analysis, computer and online technology have dramatically improved, facilitating even greater strides toward economic growth. In order to ensure that the latest technology remains a key component of the US economy, it is integral for proper education and training to foster an understanding of rapidly advancing computer technology.

Since the 2007 recession and the sluggish recovery that is in many ways still on-going, job growth has been minimal — yet in the tech sector, thousands of jobs remain vacant due to a lack of qualified applicants. “Companies all over are having a difficult time recruiting the kind of people they’re looking for,” said Robert Funk, Chairman and chief executive of Express Employment Professionals. “We currently have 18,000 open job orders we can’t fill.” In September 2011, Jones Lang LaSalle’s high tech report illustrated that high tech job growth has increased at a rate nearly 4 times the national average since 2010. The high demand is also causing salaries to rise, with the average hovering at $66,000.

The effect of technology education on regional economy can be evidenced by the relationship between the University of Washington and the surrounding Seattle area. In recent years, UW has established a reputation as one of the nation’s finest schools for computer science, and is currently ranked 7th, behind a handful of higher profile schools like Stanford and MIT, on US News & World Report‘s college ranking report. About 35% of the program’s graduates go on to work for Microsoft, Amazon or Google, and about 80% remain in the area, aiding Seattle in establishing a strong tech market. Seattle’s growing tech sector has been a big reason why the city’s unemployment has dropped to a relatively low 7.8%, below the national average of 8.3%. Meanwhile, the average tech salary in the Seattle area today tops $90,362 a year, a 5% increase from 2007.

The effect of tech jobs and education on Seattle is even more pronounced when compared to cities that have not worked to embrace advancing tech industries. In Newark, New Jersey, for example, where the chief industries remain manufacturing, transportation and trade of chemicals and machinery, unemployment is currently at 15.6%. Furthermore, median household income is only $33,372, well below the national average of $51,914.

Masnick, Mike. “High Tech Job Growth Outpaces Private Sector.” 4 Sept. 2012.

Throughout the US, results have been the same, with high tech job growth significantly outpacing general growth in the private sector. The implication of the data is that an emphasis on technology education in schools and universities would be one of the most effective methods of inspiring significant and long-term job economic growth. Through 2020, 150,000 computing jobs are likely to open up. In the coming years. it will be up to our universities to ensure they are filled with highly trained workers, and it will be the responsibility of all of us to ensure that young people are aware of the opportunities a career in technology can present.

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