Feb 11, 2013
Bill McMeekin
Bill McMeekin
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STEM Recruitment: A Tale of Two Music Cities

Computer Technology: Digital rendering for video game

No doubt, STEM workers are in demand. And communities across the nation are focusing more effort to draw workers with skills in STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) disciplines.

Having a deep pool of STEM types goes hand in glove with innovation, and that drives expansion  and investment across a range of industries, from information technology to life sciences to energy production to advanced manufacturing.

As we’ve noted before, STEM employment is growing in a number of metros, and many of them outside the traditional tech hubs of Silicon Valley, Massachusetts and New York. While the demand is up, the supply is not growing as fast, and many communities are aggressively recruiting workers with STEM skills.

“If you don’t attract them, you’re not only falling behind, you’ll be left behind,” notes George Lazenby, CEO of Nashville-based health-care technology company Emdeon and chairman of a volunteer initiative in Nashville that is attempting to recruit more IT workers to the region.

Spearheaded by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and its Partnership 2020 economic development arm, the task force identified nearly 850 IT jobs open in the region in the fourth quarter of 2012, and demand is only expected to grow. The Nashville Technology Council, another partner in the initiative, forecasts demand will grow more than 4 percent each year for IT workers, especially analysts and developer with .Net, SQL and Java experience.

Austin is a booming tech town where, in addition to its  legacy companies like Dell, it has grown and attracted a full range of multimedia technology companies, including Facebook and EA Bioware, and investment from the likes of eBay and Apple, the latter of which is in the midst of a major expansion of the operations center it operates there that already employs 3,500 people.

To woo IT workers, Austin and Nashville have launched major recruitment initiatives that include dedicated web portals where employers and prospects can connect, social media campaigns and business community evangelists who will promote their communities as tech destinations to their contacts and networks.

In May, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce launched AustinTechSource, an online talent community designed to attract experienced, out-of-market technology talent and meet the market’s need for mid-to-senior level positions. Around the time of the launch, the chamber noted, there were 1,200 IT-related job openings in the  market, 28 percent of all jobs posted electronically in the region.

STEM workers of today are not your dad’s pocket-protector crowd, so an important facet to both efforts is a strong quality of place message that taps into the vibe of each community.

A major component of the WorkIT Nashville effort plays on the recent buzz the city has generated in national media and through the television show Nashville, its highly diverse music and entertainment scene, and its relatively lower cost of living compared to traditional tech hub markets.

A strong quality of place message is front and center in the AustinTechSource initiative, too. The city’s famed live music scene, film festivals and status as both a “green” city and a “fit” city are part of its pitch.

In the latest Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities, Austin ranked second among the top 200 major metros, in large part because of the growth in its high-tech sector. Nashville was 27th on that list, moving up 15 spots from the prior year though it is still lagging other metros in tech sector growth.

Both communities, though, recognize the critical importance of attracting talent, whether it’s to stimulate tech growth or maintain the pace of growth. And in chasing that talent, both communities have recognized how differentiating themselves as places to live is every bit as important as  highlighting the opportunities as places to work.

How does your community stack up for STEM talent and what’s your strategy for attracting STEM talent? Share your thoughts.




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