Bridging the Talent Gap in Technology in South Florida

Bridging the Talent Gap in Technology in South Florida

The South Florida market is thirsty for talented developers. How do we bridge this talent gap and bring South Florida into the competitive “thinking economy?” This article investigates.

Talk to any recruiter that has to scour through resumes. Talk to any public school teacher who feels they are teaching their students outdated content. Talk to any private executive in a technology role — and you will find the same thing. There is a demand for gifted developers, programmers, analysts, and engineers in the South Florida market.

An article from the South Florida Business Journal aptly titled Tech workers deemed underpaid, nearly 4 in 5 have ‘compelling reason’ to move on finds that more than ⅓ of tech and engineering workers are underpaid by more than 10 percent. They recommend employers bump salaries in order to retain their engineers that may be looking over their shoulder and may be open to entertaining other career opportunities — elsewhere.

Another article Coding schools key to narrowing South Florida’s growing talent gap finds that “code-camps” and other supplemental forms of learning are helping to increase the talent pool, yet not at the ravenous rate that public and private organizations would like. Nevertheless, there remains a disparity between the amount of talent available, and the amount of talent requested, especially in the coming years.

Luckily, this isn’t the first time South Florida got through a human capital talent gap.

We are witnessing a demand for developers much in the same way that there was a huge demand for registered nurses back in 2011. The macro factors that made nurses and RNs popular are similar to the factors that dictate the demand for developers today: population growth, limited education, and a lack of funds to train new talent.

Why the Demand Now?

For one, evolution. We live in a service economy and the creations of humanity are becoming more abstract. Engineers are needed who can build the programs, systems, and architecture that will support the new global economy. Arguably, we’ve managed to take care of the basic needs on Maslow’s pyramid. Food, shelter, and security have been constructed — unless you drive through Liberty City, in which case, we still have some progress to make. But since we are not building with clay, thatch, and brick-and-mortar, we need a new type of architect, an “abstract architect” for the new age of mankind’s upward ascent.

“Scale Faster!”

The second demand comes from companies, from various industries, who want programmers that can bring the latest and greatest technologies and remain competitive. They need architects that can build with the latest tools.

What is now needed in the thinking economy are faster, more functional programming languages and devops tools that allow entrepreneurs and organizations to scale quicker and maintain competitive advantage against other companies that are looking to do the same. Rusty systems need polishing or brought to the cloud over a platform as a service, for example. Big data needs warehousing, maintenance, storage and optimization. Systems need to talk to other systems. New operations need to be scaled in record time.

Simply put, there is a demand for talented developers, engineers, and project managers to help spearhead these initiatives. There is a shortage of this population and a small percentage of people that have the adequate skills requested.

In the thinking economy employers need “abstract architects.” What’s more, employers don’t just want experience, they want the latest experience. Familiarity with the latest upgrades of scripting languages, object oriented, or functional languages, for example, makes candidates very marketable — for it is this latest technology that allows new service and software businesses to grow while keeping margins high and overheads low.

Supply and Demand: The Invisible Hand that Moves Markets

The founder of economics, Adam Smith mentioned that an “invisible hand” guides supply and demand in markets. This invisible hand he referred to relates to the “tendency of free markets to regulate themselves by means of competition, supply and demand, and self-interest (Source). This definition, spoken in the 18th century applies just as well to South Florida.

Macro Forces Affecting Tech Shortage in Miami, Broward, and WPB Counties

The technology talent gap can be explained by one, or all of these forces:

Generational Forces

-Baby Boomers are retiring

-Generation X + Millennials are moving into leadership roles

$$$

-Cost of living in Miami is high in comparison to compensation

-Large immigrant population working for less money, lowering the average salaries

-South FL doesn’t pay that well when compared to other tech-hubs like Silicon Valley, Boston or NY, but we also do not have state income tax and the cost of living is much lower. Top developers are motivated to take their talent elsewhere.

Education

-Not enough emphasis on STEM; too many college graduates with liberal arts degrees

-Quality education in US is subpar to Russia, India, Cuba

-Code camps, while highly specialized, are not turning out adequate talent fast enough

-Charter schools have technical programs; many public schools do not

-Slow adaptation of public school system to keep up with market demand for STEM professions

A Way Forward

South Florida is well positioned to overcome these challenges. Compared to most tech hubs nationally, we have a lower cost of living and a high demand by companies to find top tech talent. Who’s to say we can’t recruit talent from the outside in?

Bianca Diosdado, Senior Executive at Octagon Technology Staffing finds that the best solutions lie in education, continued corporate support and engineers focusing on career growth through the leveraging of relationships.”

Diosdado has met with executives in the local market to get their opinion on how they’re tackling the issue. “Code camps are definitely helping out, but it’s about creating role models too,” says Diosdado. “We love that we’re able to take part and support the local tech community.”

For example, local organizations such as the South Florida Digital Alliance aim to connect the digital community by promoting digital literacy. More programs, like Women of Tomorrow or GeekiGirls, which aim to get more girls involved in the STEM field are helping to supplement current learning, create more diversity and impel new talent forward.

Success will occur when the right incentives are dangled in front of the right eyes. We need carrots, not sticks. Role models that give back to the community. We need to create a sense of urgency that produces action — both at the educational level, and at the corporate level. We must act upon these challenges we face, together as a community. Miami has a great brand, and we want to attract people here. It starts with all of us; it starts with you.

In order to drive more talent to the Sunshine State we’re hosting tech education events & Meetups to give back to the community and increase the market value of the candidates that we represent. 

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