The complicated truth about the tech talent gap.

These days, it’s hard to get a clear picture of the state of the tech labor market in the U.S.

By some accounts, the disconnect between the number of open tech jobs and the amount of tech talent able to fill them is a crisis that is fast approaching epic proportions. By others, the tech talent gap isn’t that big a deal. The same Google search will turn up a headline that reads, “The tech talent gap is even larger than you thought,” and another that lists out “3 reasons why the tech talent shortage is overblown”.

So, which one is true?

There are some irrefutable statistics, but we’ve found the answer is: It depends on what you need, where you are and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Last year, we analyzed the numbers on a state level. At the time, there were 23,432 open technology jobs in North Carolina — 20 percent more than the same time last year. The most in-demand job was software developer, with 4,431 open positions. That was an increase of 48 percent over 2017 numbers.

Across the country, 261,000 new tech jobs were added in 2018, according to CompTIA’s annual Cyberstates report, which aggregates data about the tech sector throughout the U.S. The number of new tech startups or business units launched in 2018 totaled 40,500, and there were 3.7 million postings for tech jobs.

Among all 50 states, North Carolina ranked 4th when it came to net tech jobs added in 2018. (Not surprisingly, California came in at No. 1.)

So the question is, are there enough qualified tech workers out there to fill them?

By most accounts, the answer is no.

Experts estimate about 1 million computer programming jobs in this country will go unfilled by 2020. CIOs say a lack of available tech talent is the No. 1 obstacle keeping them from achieving their goals. And as the chief economist for Glassdoor points out, missed business goals have implications beyond the success of an individual company.

He had the concept; the next step was finding a technology partner to help bring that business to life.
“Every job that’s open is money left on the table, in the form of lost productivity for employers and earnings in consumers’ pockets. When more open jobs are filled with the right people, economic gains include greater business productivity and consumer spending, thanks to more people earning wages, then saving, investing and spending those wages.” – Chief Economist for Glassdoor.

There are signs of improvement. According to an article in Tech Republic, for instance, tech employers had a relatively easier time finding workers in 2018 than they did in 2014. But here in North Carolina, which is adding tech jobs faster than 46 other states in the U.S., the pain of missing talent is still acute.

One of our clients, a company called Boardroom Insiders, came to us after working with outside help — which left them needing additional horsepower to get the company’s back-end technology where it needed to be. Another client, Mountain Khakis, hired someone to build out the company’s e-commerce platform, only to end up with a complicated, buggy system that didn’t provide the right solution for the problem at hand.

These are problems with profound financial impact at the company level, but as the economist from Glassdoor points out, that has repercussions beyond a company’s bottom line. When a company’s technology doesn’t work, the company can’t scale. It can’t add jobs. It can’t fill its employees’ pockets with more money to spend on homes, cars and vacations. It’s a vicious cycle.

As we noted last year, the solution isn’t easy. We need to do a better job as a country of training kids in STEM subjects and preparing them for tech-related jobs. We need to take advantage of the resources available now, such as coding schools and bootcamps, for fresh and capable tech talent. But we also need to make sure we keep our focus on quality. Bad tech talent is almost worse than no tech talent at all, costing companies time, money and, potentially, customers. So while we need more tech workers, we also need to make sure those workers are good at what they do.

And that’s the interesting thing when it comes to the conflicting headlines about the state of the tech labor market in the U.S.: The numbers and the people who study them may point to incremental gains as a sign of success. And maybe they are. But when you’re a company with real technology needs, you’re not worried about the slowly shrinking tech talent gap. You need help now.

That’s why we built Dualboot Partners: to be there, when your business needs it.