Why are some Tampa Bay area companies finding it difficult to fill job openings? A recent study shows it's because of a "skills gap." There aren't enough people adequately trained for positions involving technology.
"It's a problem for all of us in the business community," says Chris Paul, information services manager for Melitta Coffee in Clearwater.
Paul says even traditional businesses, like manufacturing coffee filters, are relying more on technology to compete.
Building a Tech Pipeline
The problem is even larger for technology businesses like Haneke Design in Tampa. The company develops and designs mobile applications and websites. Owner Jody Haneke says it took two months to fill two positions late last year, and he still has positions open.
Haneke says the area needs to develop a strategy to train and attract more qualified people.
"We need more collaboration of business and schools," says Haneke, whose firm employs around 15, and is still growing. "We need a kind of pipeline for that talent to feed those businesses, and then from that, momentum grows."
Case In Point
Amory Ifill is taking night classes in technology management at St. Petersburg College. Still in his 20s, he could be just the kind of employee firms are looking for. He already works in technology for a large financial firm, and now he's in school to add a bachelor's degree to his resume.
"The more knowledgeable, the more experience you have, it makes you more marketable," Ifill said.
A BS Degree At A Bargain
Dr. Bill Law, president of St. Petersburg College, believes part of the answer to the skills gap is reducing the high cost of a college education.
"We can't keep having our university friends keep raising tuition 15 percent a year. That's unsustainable," Law said.
SPC was the first state college to answer a challenge from Governor Rick Scott to create a four-year, bachelor's degree program for $10,000. Law hopes to begin the pilot program in August, a degree in Technology Development and Management.
The Brain Drain
But, many of the young people who are educated in technology in the Tampa Bay area move to other cities for higher pay. Some call it the "brain drain," Local government officials, like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, are trying to stop it.
"I don't want my daughters moving to Charlotte when they finish school," says Buckhorn, who is working to fill the skills gap and stop the brain drain.
The multi-faceted challenge for the Tampa Bay area is to educate more people in technology and have competitive salaries to keep them here when they finish school. Only then, some say, will more technology companies start up in the Bay Area or move here from other cities.
Tampa Bay Technology Forum
Grow Tampa Bay Tech work force analysis: