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There were more than 9,000 IT jobs posted online in Southeast Michigan in the second quarter of 2013. Almost one-third of available jobs were based in the city of Detroit. The industry as a whole struggles to find the talent it needs. According to Career Builder, the region’s hiring indicator for software developers is a “20.” (A score of 0 indicates an occupation is very hard to recruit, while score of 100 is easier to recruit.) Note: Hiring indicators are created through a comparison of job postings from employers relative to active qualified candidates.
Employers looking for IT talent in the Detroit region validate these numbers: Employers are struggling so much to find qualified candidates in key occupations (e.g., software developers, project managers and quality assurance) that they have been collaborating to develop and deliver training and experiential learning opportunities to help build a qualified labor force. But there is a catch: To participate in such specialized training, workers need basic skills and a certain level of educational attainment.
As job opportunities in the industry continue to grow, with many of those opportunities right along Woodward Avenue, Detroit city residents seem disproportionately disengaged. Not surprisingly, this seems to be the case when it comes to many of high-skilled occupations that are emerging in Southeast Michigan: Detroit residents suffer from generally lower basic skill and educational attainment levels and the jobs in question very often demand high skills and higher education degrees.
Even compared to areas like engineering, medical technology, etc., Detroiters seem remarkably absent from the information technology scene.
Digging deeper into the Career Builder data, we find that, compared to other Southeast Michigan cities (for example, Novi, Sterling Heights, Troy, Warren, Canton, etc.), it is almost always harder to find active jobseekers from Detroit who are pursuing some of the region’s most in-demand, high-tech job opportunities.
When one looks across these opportunities, it is even harder to find active Detroit resident jobseekers in IT. For example, despite nearly 3,800 software development positions that appeared in Career Builder last year, we found only 246 Detroiters actively sought those jobs. This compares to nearly 1,500 who pursued general engineering occupations. Detroiters faired better when it came to computer network specialists, but they still were underrepresented compared to residents from other major cities in the area.
Source: Career Builder labor pressure reports September 2012-August 2013
Fortunately, there are many initiatives underway to help encourage Detroit residents — young and old — catch the regional IT wave. Black Girls Code helps encourage African-American girls explore and experience the field of computer coding. Detroit Employment Solutions Corp. is undertaking an effort with Grand Circus technical training center to expose ninth- to 12th-graders to IT careers. And many area IT employers are taking a hard look at trying to grow the future pipeline of workers.
Certainly there are more efforts underway that can be relayed in this space, but more must be done to help Detroiters legitimately see themselves (and be prepared) as candidates for perhaps the greatest hiring opportunity in their backyard.