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Community Voices: It’s time for a new approach to close the gap of 6K tech workers in Tampa Bay

Ron Favali

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I listened in to most of Tampa Bay Tech’s poweredUp virtual summit this past Friday. Most of the sessions were fantastic. However, one common theme throughout several presentations left me scratching my head.

According to several speakers, Tampa Bay has more than 57,000 people working in tech. The staggering statistic is that there are currently more than 6,000 technology-related job openings in Tampa Bay. Ten percent of all tech jobs are presently vacant.

That’s a staggering amount of work not getting done!

Several really smart people presented plans to close this gap. Networking. Apprenticeship programs. Working with local universities. Job Boards. Programs to retrain workers. Programs to teach new tech skills. The list went on.

I don’t question for a second the effectiveness of these programs. They will work. However, they will also take time. Building a skilled talent pool in a specific geographic area is a complicated and time-consuming process. Hiring and training employees is an expensive and time-consuming process.

The plans discussed to close the skills gap of 6,000 workers focused on perfecting and optimizing current best practices. Without question, this will chip away at the problem. The problem is with a ten percent vacancy rate, a sledgehammer might be a better solution.

Consider the implications of an NFL team playing down one player on the field on every play in every game. That’s the equivalent of having 10 percent of all tech jobs left unfilled. Sure, you may have a good drive, and even score a few, but winning will be significantly more challenging.

Tech companies in Tampa Bay compete on a national, and some on a global level. Startups in Tampa Bay need the perfect combination of resources to succeed. No one can afford to be down a player.

There is an alternative. It’s rooted in incorporating highly skilled professionals to internal teams quickly, and probably at a lower cost. Your success today may be based on how willing you are to integrate on-demand distributed professional talent into your workforce.

The desire for flexibility, combined with historically low unemployment levels, has created an opportunity for highly-skilled, high wage professionals – including computer programmers, designers, accountants, and even attorneys and medical professionals – to rid themselves of the traditional office model. This growing segment of the employment market, with skills that are in high demand, prefers to stay remote and have the opportunity to work on many different projects.

Armed with their skills, experience and talents, these professionals are attracted to temporary work where they can be quickly integrated into existing teams and deliver immediate results. They can help fill gaps during times of peak demands, used as an alternative to full-time employment to help get projects started, or can stay on board for prolonged periods.

And there is a strong demand for this type of on-demand skilled professionals. According to one survey, more than 75 percent of business leaders consider the ability to add the right talent to their organization to be one of the primary risks to their company’s success. More than 90 percent of these business leaders already use external talent in some capacity, and most forecast that their use of external professionals will grow significantly over the next five years.

For startups and other medium-sized businesses, this model makes it easier to get the right talent quickly, without the massive investment that comes with full-time employees. It also makes it easier for any company to experiment with new projects that require new skills while mitigating the downside risk.

There is an unbelievable amount of untapped professional talent sitting on the sidelines. For a variety of reasons, many shun the traditional office model, and the outdated 9 to 5 office requirements.

Amazingly talented women who want to spend more time with young kids as they are starting families. Professionals are not willing to uproot their families and relocate for any opportunity. The need for flexibility to care for aging parents. Today there are millions of reasons to not want to be in an office every day. And if you have the skills, professional talent can have it both ways.

This works. Three years ago, I was told that if I wanted to keep my job at a Fortune 1000 technology company I needed to relocate to New York. That decision took about a millisecond to process.

One of my first moves was to join Galvanize Worldwide. Galvanize is the world’s largest network of distributed technology marketing professionals. It was started four years ago with a small handful of professionals, and the core team has grown to nearly 75 PR experts, content marketers, demand gen professionals, SEO pros, graphic designers and web developers. Galvanize has no office; everyone is remote. The needs of the client are met with the precise combination skills required. Because there are no offices furnished with mahogany conference room tables, Galvanize offers highly competitive rates. Clients’ money is spent on talent. They get access to top professional talent they otherwise couldn’t afford.

The potential talent pool for on-demand professionals in technology dwarfs that of marketing. Whatever the need is – developers, testers, engineers, designers, even a CIO – you can find it. They just might not be in Tampa Bay. There are several companies that can help you find the specific skill you need, and that person can probably start tomorrow. Compare that to how long it took to find, hire and train the last member to join your team.

Companies seeking tech talent in Tampa Bay need to consider all options available to them. Highly skilled on-demand technology talent is available. You just may need to be more flexible in your thinking on how you acquire it. It’s time to focus on getting the work done, not where it is done.

I hope this is a conversation tech companies in Tampa Bay with open positions at least start to consider. The skills gap exists and is growing. New thoughts and approaches are needed to close the gap and make companies in Tampa Bay more competitive on a national and global scale.

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