What New York can teach the North about the digital skills shortage

12 Apr, 2017

As much as the tech sector in the North of England complains about a skills shortage, it’s important to remember it’s a global problem. From a software developer in a small Yorkshire village struggling to attract recruits, to the hyper-inflated salaries earned by Silicon Valley interns, they’re all symptoms of a shortage of people with the right skills to shape the tech of the future.

One city we can learn a lot from in tackling the issue is New York. So it’s great that Lauren Andersen, Executive Director of NYC Tech Talent Pipeline will be speaking at Tech North’s Digital Jobs Action Summit on 27th April to share her experiences.

New York City is, by some measures, the second biggest tech ecosystem in the world. Keeping a flow of talented people available to its businesses is essential. That’s why in 2014 Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the Tech Talent Pipeline. This $10 million industry partnership is designed, as its website puts it, “to deliver quality jobs for New Yorkers and quality talent for New York’s businesses.”

The project works with a network of 175 companies to identify the exact skills they require. It then develops training plans in partnership with local colleges to ensure that those needs are met. It’s not just about ‘traditional’ techies, either. In a city of 8.4 million people, many groups were unaware that tech was a career option. Also, many people with other skills had scope to retrain and move into the industry.

Lauren Andersen was previously a Policy Adviser at the White House’s Office of Science & Technology Policy. There she worked on issues like updating government R&D budget rules to allow public funds to cover childcare costs during conferences. She also built partnerships with industry to get more women into tech.

At Tech Talent Pipeline, Andersen still works on high-level policy, but she’s also responsible for making sure those policies turn into action.

Delivering talent at scale

Now that Tech Talent Pipeline has spent a couple of years developing skills programmes with colleges and bootcamps, Andersen says it’s time for the next stage.

“We’ve learned a lot from putting the programmes together,” she says. “Now we have to get all colleges to adopt industry-driven training schemes. We need to get massive institutions to align and deliver talent at scale. And there’s only so much capacity for training programmes. Existing pathways into work need to be optimised too.”

While it’s good that New York City is working so actively to address its tech talent shortage, it’s commendable to see that they don’t believe they yet have all the answers. Andersen says Tech Talent Pipeline shares knowledge with similar initiatives in cities across the USA. And she is also working internationally, partnering with the Mayor of London’s Digital Talent Programme, for example.

“There’s a real opportunity for any jurisdiction across the world to do this,” says Andersen. “But there needs to be a real determination to remove the disconnect between education and employers – that can be huge.”

You can hear more from Lauren Andersen about NYC Tech Talent Pipeline at Tech North’s Digital Jobs Action Summit in Leeds on 27th April. Get your free ticket now.

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