Business Matters: Addressing a Tech Worker Shortage
Nyphen Sanders will soon be a man in demand. The former student at Hennepin Technical College recently participated in a prestigious technology internship through Cisco. Sanders is pursuing a tech career in cybersecurity.
“I consider myself an ethical hacker. So what an ethical hacker does is look for vulnerabilities in systems,” said Sanders.
But the world of computer technology needs more people like Nyphen. Many more. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development estimates that there will be about 75,000 tech job openings in the state over the next decade.
Companies Grapple with Tech Worker Shortage
At TrueIT in Osseo, two-thirds of the company are tech workers. The Fargo, N.D.-based company fills technology gaps for businesses with either no IT department or a very small one. In just seven years, TrueIT went from a startup to now 70 employees. But it can only grow so fast unless it finds more tech help.
“Always looking for good tech workers and definitely struggling to find them,” said Zac Paulson, CEO of TrueIT.
Paulson says one challenge he sees is many four-year college graduates are not prepared with practical, real-world experience.
“It’s kind of a two-faceted battle. One, our colleges and universities and tech colleges are not turning out enough for the current future demand. But it’s also we had this shortage 10 years ago, so you don’t see a lot of experienced workers out there.”
Hennepin Technical College Plays Role in Meeting Demand
Companies increasingly turn to two-year schools like Hennepin Tech to address the shortage.
“To meet those demands we are offering day, evening and weekend courses. Our courses are scheduled eight weeks and 16 weeks, so very flexible schedules for those students that are working,” said Leanne Rogstad, Hennepin Tech’s interim VP of academic affairs, who oversees IT enrollment.
A school spokesperson says faculty members do receive calls from area employers who are looking for students or graduates to hire. Entry level jobs in the IT field typically start between $30,000 and $50,000. The cost of a Hennepin Tech degree is about $5,000 per year.
“Some of our students do have internship opportunities, so they can go out and work with our industry partners and get that real-time experience. One great thing about that too is when they’re on their internships, they get paid. So that helps with the student offset the cost of the courses.”
At Hennepin Tech’s spring commencement, the largest number of graduates came from the school’s IT program, one of the largest among two-year colleges in the Minnesota State system. Eighty-four students either received IT degrees or certificates.
Company leaders say that’s a start. The CEO of TrueIT says the shortage is serious enough, however, that his company may have to start up its own university or training system, perhaps even reaching into high schools for prospective workers, because he’s uncertain how traditional colleges can turn the tide.
“Ten years from now, if we don’t change our education, we’re going to be in a serious issue trying to have all the security people, trying to have all the technical workers, the consultants,” said Paulson.