The largest challenge facing the Seattle region’s technology companies is the difficulty in getting the talented workforce they need to grow and prosper. The success of the region in attracting companies is also its greatest challenge, as it creates a large demand for qualified workers in computer science, engineering and other areas. Microsoft, for example, currently has 6,000 job openings nationwide, 3,400 of which are for software engineers, developers, programmers, and the like. The same is true for other small, medium, and large companies as well as startups. The Washington Technology Industrial Association (WTIA), with over 600 technology company members, has taken on this challenge and set forth a key Strategic Initiative on workforce development. WTIA asked Northeastern-Seattle Dean Tayloe Washburn to chair its new Workforce Development Committee (WFD Committee). The committee has regional leaders in academia, an array of technology companies and representatives from workforce nonprofits.
The WFD Committee first hosted a meeting of higher education institutions in the state, which included the University of Washington, Washington State University, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Bellevue College and Western Washington University. In recent weeks many other institutions have agreed to help inform this advisory group of higher ed institutions, including Central Washington University and Eastern Washington University, and subsequently crafted a 12-18 month strategy to implement this initiative. The WTIA Board of Directors last week met and approved the WFD Strategy. It calls for 1) documenting the technology industry talent gap with precision, so all are working off the same data; 2) inventorying academic resources and identify possible gaps, areas for improvement or filling gaps, and identifying best practices which effectively address tech talent; and 3) inventorying and identifying the best practices of employers in this region in tackling the tech talent gap.
Other economic development groups, public officials and stakeholders in the region see this WFD Strategy as a key means to tackle this regional problem. EnterpriseSeattle will kick off its 2013 Economic Forecast Conference by showcasing this iniative in January, and we will also involve the Technology Alliance in helping document the talent gap. Those interested in more information and who would like to participate should contact the WFD Committee Chair, Tayloe Washburn of Northeastern University-Seattle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206.419.3878.