Defining a tech ecosystem: tech companies vs. tech workers

The search for a detailed picture of skills needs and gaps


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What defines a company as a “tech company” in 2016? Certainly not the same definition we used a decade or more ago, which was probably along the lines of “a company that focused specifically on developing a product or service that was highly dependent on technological tools and skills of its employees.”

While I could not find a definition for today or one from 10 years ago, I believe that this is not the relevant question anymore. The tech sector today is no longer defined by the number of companies that are “true tech,” but by the large, growing and in-demand workforce required to fill these positions in a myriad of technology-related positions. We have dubbed this workforce gap the “tech talent gap.”

Let’s look at some examples of today’s tech-driven companies or organizations.

Southern NH University is probably one of our most rapidly growing organizations in New Hampshire, especially through its online education programs. It now employs roughly hundreds of employees in tech-related fields. For that matter, all colleges and universities are highly dependent on technological tools, data analytics and a tech infrastructure.

Fidelity Investments employs more than 5,500 people in New Hampshire, and about 1,500 of those are specifically in technology roles. These technologists focus on customers by developing new technology, such as mobile apps.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot even identify many components under the hood of today’s new cars. Grappone Automotive, AutoFair, Merchants Auto and our other large auto dealers and repair shops rely on having highly skilled employees capable of working with complex diagnostics tools on a daily basis. These employees go through intensive training for these jobs, much of which is technologically driven. That training, coincidentally, is mainly through our community college system, which has mirrored systems on the campuses that major dealers use.

Then think of the health care and banking industries – they are massively dependent on technology. What about security, the media, transportation, advanced manufacturing, financial affairs and government? The list goes on and on.

The NH High Tech Council is currently working with the NH Charitable Foundation and the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development to get a much more detailed sense of the tech-related workforce needs of New Hampshire businesses and organizations.

To cull our list of those to survey, we used big data to find those companies with a clear focus on developing a tech product or service or with at least 40 people who hire people that are in IT or computer science.

We use NAICS codes (North American Industry Classification System) to make this determination. This is “the standard used by federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

We hope to get some very good granular data that will help us determine, in detail, skills needs and gaps. Then we can take this and share it with those that might work to fill those gaps. But the takeaway point is that we are likely to see trends across many diverse organizations with specific employment needs based more on jobs, and less on industry sector (with exceptions such as advanced manufacturing).

While we have our tech talent gap challenges, New Hampshire is fortunate to have a workforce that is technologically dependent. The benefits include higher salaries, growth opportunities and the ability to fuel future economic development. Through this data, we hope to redefine our tech sector as broad and diverse and work towards developing new pathways for tech and IT career training and advancement, while demonstrating that New Hampshire has much to offer from an employee perspective.

Then we need to scream this from the hilltops! It’s an election year – why not think big? 

Matt Cookson is executive director of the NH High Tech Council.

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