Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s alone.
Kansas City posted nearly 7,700 STEM job openings in 2015 — but only filled 2,550 of them.
That means that for every STEM job candidate, there were three job openings. That’s great for job searchers, but terrible for Kansas City business and innovation.
So, what’s causing the problem?
Kansas City is becoming a tech hub.
Kansas City is in an enviable position, with several world-class companies thriving in the technology sector. We are home to Cerner, Garmin, Sprint, DST, H&R Block and many other household names.
Despite this (or perhaps because of it), we have become a victim of our own success. The area’s large tech corporations are struggling to grow due to a lack of talent to fill their advanced technology jobs — there simply aren’t enough people in Kansas City with the necessary skills.
These companies need software developers, network engineers, systems administrators, electrical engineers and much more. And although they do a good job of recruiting talent from college campuses, companies still aren’t able to fill the volume of talent they need.
If the big corporations are struggling to bring talent to Kansas City, it’s even more of an uphill battle for smaller firms and startups.
How do we get closer to a 1:1 ratio in the tech sector and close the 5,150-job gap?
It begins with the kids.
Creating a continuous pipeline of tech talent begins with educating today’s children to fill the STEM rolls of the future. But right now, we have a huge deficit in our public school and higher education systems.
Many high school science and math instructors don’t have degrees in those fields, making it harder to engage and properly prepare students. And although girls are mostly on par with boys in K-12 education, by the time students get to college, women’s participation in STEM programs drops off significantly.
There are, however, some significant success stories that are starting to turn that tide.
Programs like Northland CAPS and Blue Valley CAPS are creating tech curriculums that are relevant to the workforce (what a concept!). But to really make measurable improvements for the future, we need dozens of programs like these in Kansas City now!
What about today’s tech workforce needs?
While tech folks realize that many of the core problems with technology worker shortages are systemic problems with education, there are still things we can do to help today’s issues.
The primary solution is is to turn Kansas City into a magnet in drawing talent from other cities.
OK, so how do we do that? First, people have to know the jobs are out there. Tech Council KCnext’s newly-created job board, Chute, showcases some of KC’s best tech employers, and enables people to apply for jobs online.
Then there’s re-training the current employment pool for tech jobs, which is what LaunchCode is all about.
I have a third idea: Kansas City needs a “Tech Czar.” This person would travel the country attending college career fairs, job fairs, economic development council conventions and tech conferences singing the praises of Kansas City as a great place for techies to work and live.
While the problems are daunting, the stakes are high if Kansas City is going to continue to thrive in technology and keep our winning streak alive!
Matt Denney is a KCnext board member and founder of StarRecruit LLC, a Kansas City IT job recruitment service. StarRecruit is a Startland advertiser, however, this content was not produced as part of an advertising agreement and is not sponsored content.