The common wisdom is that there are few job opportunities in the region, especially for college graduates. Most young people assume that good jobs can only be found out of the area, usually in some city like SF, LA, Portland or Seattle. But at recent event celebrating a few industry groups (in this case forestry, education and research, and information technology), the main focus of the panel discussion was the lack of qualified people to fill open postions.
How can this be? Potential employees feel there are no good jobs while employers are having problems finding good people for the jobs they have. Part of the problem may be that expectations on both sides are just too high. Employers ecpect young job seekers to come fully formed in to the market and start contributing as a full member of the staff. New job seekers, on the other hand may be expecting too much in terms of compensation, comparing the scale here to what they hear people are getting for similar postions in those hot urban areas. It seems some kind of dialogue between employeers and employees (or their representatives) might help.
But there are a couple trends that dialogue might not so easily overcome. One is that the baby boom generation is moving toward retirement and there just aren’t enough people in general from subsequent generations to fill those positions. This trend is affecting much of the developed world, not just the north coast.
Another disturbing trend, particularly for the tech industry is the drop in interest in math and computer sciences in current student populations. According to Pam Godwin of the HSU Career Center this drop in interest is blowback from the Silicon Valley bubble burst a few years ago. I think this is only partly true. The trend now is toward small companies started by entrepreneurs with or without computer degrees. Web programming languages have become easier and easier and all the training needed can be found on the web, for free or much cheaper than traditional college paths. Why go to school and get a job in a cube farm when you can team up with a couple friends and make a Web 2.0 company in a few months and get a bunch of money when Yahoo! or Google comes calling. At least that’s the new siren call.
I don’t have any good answersÂ for those of us on the north coast who will be needing new tech employees in the next few years. But this is going to be a huge issue going forward.
All a degree shows is that you have the ability to pay (or beg, borrow, steal) tuition money and show up to class.
I wish more employers would take chances with those still looking to prove themselves. This is a hard job arena to start up in.. or start over..
Bob wrote, “Degrees give HR people who donâ€™t know how to evaluate people an easy way out. But it doesnâ€™t guarantee you get good people.”.
That’s the problem I’ve been having. Been in the tech field since the mid-90’s, ran my own business successfully for almost three years, and now no one will look at me because I don’t have that slip of paper.
Still, quitters never win and winners never quit, right?
Sorry you’re not having luck finding a job, Jay. I don’t know your qualifications. But it was clear to me that from that meeting that employers need to look beyond degrees and find some other way of evaluating prospects. In the tech area my sense is you need to have proven skills and the ability to communicate (deal with co-workers and clients). If you can demonstrate those abilities, then a degree shouldn’t matter. Degrees give HR people who don’t know how to evaluate people an easy way out. But it doesn’t guarantee you get good people.
I’ve actually been struggling to find a job myself, Bob. I’ve been looking and looking, but I just don’t have what it takes to fill a position.
They want that degree, and unfortunately life has made that nearly impossible for me to attain at this point in time.
So I dream of the day I can get back to school and get my degree and get into one of the IT jobs in the area, and hope I can make it long enough that I don’t have to go flip burgers for a living.