Regional Task Force Presents Results of IT Workforce Study

October 11, 2012

TAMPA, Fla. / A task force of business and economic development leaders released today a report analyzing the availability of qualified Information Technology (IT) workers in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.  The culmination of a detailed four-month study, the Hillsborough-Pinellas Workforce Analysis identifies the current needs of local employers and provides proactive recommendations to ensure a steady pipeline of future tech talent, as the community prepares for anticipated economic growth.
A nationwide issue of growing importance, the supply of skilled IT employees has become increasingly important to a broad range of technology-driven industries, including many of those targeted within the Tampa Bay region.  Communities across the country have begun to explore the topic, in an effort to mitigate employer concerns as rapid job creation leads to increased demand.
“A strong workforce is one of the most significant factors in business relocation and expansion decisions,” said Rick Homans, President and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation and chair of the task force.  “Access to IT talent directly affects our ability to attract companies to the area, as well as retain our existing businesses.  We intend to address the situation now, before it becomes critical, so we can create an optimal environment for growth.”
Homans joined the Tampa Hillsborough EDC in January, and within weeks, realized that the widespread IT workforce shortages being reported throughout the country were beginning to surface in Hillsborough County.  Anecdotal feedback from local employers, supported by historical evidence from years of state and regional research, prompted immediate action.
Gathering representatives from area business organizations including the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance, the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, the Tampa Bay Partnership and the Florida High Tech Corridor, as well as neighboring Pinellas County Economic Development, Homans convened the first meeting of the Tampa Bay IT Workforce Task Force in April.
“The collaborative nature of this project sends a strong message to the business community about our ability and desire to work together as a region,” said Mike Meidel, Director of Pinellas County Economic Development.  “Not only do Pinellas and Hillsborough counties share a common labor force, we share a common interest in ensuring our companies have the resources they need to succeed, now and in the future.”
The Hillsborough-Pinellas IT Workforce Analysis commenced in May, led by project manager Patricia Gehant and supported by research analyst Clay Gambetti.  An initial workforce survey was distributed to more than 140 technology companies located in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, with responses representing over 25% of the total IT workforce.  In-depth individual interviews were conducted with 60 business and academic leaders, followed by a series of seven focus groups targeting students, C-level executives, current IT employees, HR professionals and educational institutions.  The resulting research recognized a community rich in quality education, innovative business leaders and willing talent, although some opportunities do exist.
Key findings include:
·        An immediate need exists for employees with skills in Java, .Net and Agile development, CRM, SharePoint and security, as well as experienced cloud computing and sales engineers
·        Areas of anticipated growth include business analytics, big data, desktop support, security specialists, and computer and software engineers
·        Companies are seeking individuals with three to five years of work experience in an enterprise environment, and the ability to be productive from the first day
·        Business are requiring their employees to do more and maintain multiple skills
·        Small to mid-size companies without a formal new-hire training program reported the greatest challenges in finding entry-level candidates with necessary technical knowledge
·        IT professionals are required to be lifelong learners due to rapid changes in technology
·        Students need to have more real-world technical skills when entering the job market
·        Students have a limited knowledge of the local technology job market
·        Business, education and students are all willing and interested in working together
“This initiative is an important investment in the long-term viability of our workforce,” said Ed Peachey, President and CEO of WorkNet Pinellas and the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance.  “The study has generated reliable information that we can use to focus our training programs and recruitment efforts on the skills businesses need most.”
Based on these findings, the IT Workforce Task Force developed a series of recommendations designed to effectively and efficiently fill the gaps by strengthening the connections between business, education, government and community partners.  Many of the suggested actions will be initiated in the first year of implementation, including:
Real-world training for high demand jobs
·        Create a series of exploration labs that allow students to practice technical skills
·        Develop technical training programs to match high demand skills
·        Encourage business professionals to work with educators to define and deliver current technical skills
·        Provide supplemental technical training to returning veterans
Streamlined internships for the workforce of tomorrow
·        Expand available internship opportunities
·        Train businesses on best practices for effective internships
·        Utilize technology and social media to connect students with local internship opportunities
·        Conduct internship fairs to connect students with local employers
Innovative career development, recruitment and retention practices
·        Engage local user groups and IT MeetUps
·        Develop a Talent Satisfaction Index to quantify personal and professional satisfaction related to job retention
Regional marketing and external recruitment efforts
·        Conduct community challenges (i.e. Hack-a-thons, code builds, etc.) to expose IT talent to local companies and job opportunities
·        Introduce Tampa Bay Technology Forum chapters at area colleges and universities
·        Grow partnerships between businesses and the K-12 school systems
·        Market the area to increase the in-migration of IT talent
·        Train HR and recruitment representatives to sell the unique assets of the area to external talent
Under the umbrella of “Grow Tampa Bay Tech,” the Tampa Bay Technology Forum will manage the implementation process and serve as a central point of contact for business and education partners.  The members of the IT Workforce Task Force will continue to operate in an advisory role and assist in the coordination and execution of program initiatives.
“In this first year of implementation, we will focus intensely on ensuring that the partnerships and programs recommended today are established and make swift progress,” said Heather Kenyon, CEO of TBTF.  “Our tech industry’s future is dependent upon this region’s ability to provide the right talent to fuel their growth.  As the voice of Tampa Bay’s tech industry, we will always make sure that its needs are heard loud and clear, and that our workforce and education partners understand those needs so they can serve them well.”
Additional research, led by the Tampa Bay Partnership and the Florida High Tech Corridor, is currently underway in the remaining six counties that comprise the greater Tampa Bay region.  These findings, along with recommendations on a broad regional implementation strategy, will be released later this year.

Visit to view a full copy of the Hillsborough-Pinellas IT Workforce Analysis report, and find out how to participate in ongoing program implementation initiatives.

About the Hillsborough-Pinellas Workforce Analysis:
A regional task force of business and economic development partners provided oversight and strategic direction for the Hillsborough-Pinellas IT Workforce Analysis, the first phase in a Tampa Bay IT workforce study.  The Hillsborough-Pinellas report was funded by the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance.  Secondary funding was provided by the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Pinellas County Economic Development, Tampa Bay Technology Forum and the Tampa Bay Partnership.