After the Employment Trend Survey: What NJ’s Tech Industry Can Do, Part 1


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At the New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC) annual meeting on July 12, 2012, the results of a survey detailing N.J. tech talent and employment trends overshadowed the excellent keynote speech by Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation.

The survey — on the New Jersey tech industry’s employment trends and talent pool — was conducted and presented by attorney and IP and technology law specialist Kurt Anderson of Giordano Halleran & Ciesla (Red Bank) and CPA and partner Jim Bourke of WithumSmith+Brown (Princeton) in conjunction with the NJTC.

Polling 148 N.J.-based tech companies representing global, national and local businesses, the survey’s authors came to several key conclusions, a few of which have created some controversy and a lot of press for the organization. It should be noted, though, that because NJTC represents almost 1,000 member companies, only a small percentage of those firms participated in the survey.

The highlights:

  • The key areas in highest demand over the next 12 months will be custom application development, network infrastructure and mobile information access and sharing between employees and customers.
  • Most of the companies answering the survey kept their hiring to inside the U.S., and while many outsourced, only 24.5 percent outsourced outside the U.S.
  • Technical workers and employees with project management skills are in demand.

However:

  • N.J. tech companies never or rarely participate in job fairs to hire returning veterans, largely because they are unaware of this robust tech talent source or don’t know how to reach out to vets.
  • The biggest employment obstacle facing tech companies is the lack of resources for IT employee development and training for current staff. The companies said there is too much competition for a limited pool of IT candidates, and a lack of qualified talent.
  • While more than half the companies cited Rutgers, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Stevens Institute of Technology as schools from which they recruit, 45 percent do not offer entry-level positions at all and so do not recruit.
  • Nearly 75 percent of the companies surveyed said they do not take advantage of government-sponsored employment credits or incentives. Many said they weren’t aware that these exist.

NJTechWeekly.com spoke with Maxine Ballen, NJTC CEO, and the survey’s authors about some of the thornier issues it uncovered and asked what the tech community can do to solve these problems going forward.

Bourke said he and Anderson were taken aback by the overall results and comments related to hiring veterans.

“It is clear from the responses that respondents were not aware of this potentially robust talent pool,” Bourke said. Some comments demonstrated this. A large data-management company said, “We want to make this a priority but have not yet figured out a program.” A representative of a mid-sized company noted, “I would consider it if I knew there would be qualified candidates.” Even a CEO at a large software solutions firm remarked, “Would like to but [we] are not aware of the resources.”

Ballen said that immediately following the survey’s release, two member companies, AT&T; (Dallas) and SetFocus (Parsippany), volunteered to set up workshops and seminars and write articles “specifically focused on … helping companies understand how to access returning veterans and what skills they bring to the table.”

“That piece was very gratifying to me,” said Ballen. The issue will be addressed on a peer-to-peer basis, she added, which she feels will be effective in helping companies set up programs to recruit veterans. The firms that have been successful at attracting and incorporating vets will show others how it is done.

Added Bourke, “We also have to find out more about what information is available to companies that want to hire veterans.” He said a client who had been in the military explained that there is no centralized system where employees can go to learn about veterans available for employment. Employers are merely directed to different resources in the army, navy and so forth. “We plan to write an article to help our clients navigate this and point them in the direction they can go,” he added.

“We would like to see a comprehensive online database that would provide information on veterans and their skills, along with incentives or tax credits offered to employers who hire or train them,” Anderson noted. What is available is not user-friendly from the employer’s perspective, he and Bourke agreed.

The second part of this article will explore other issues of note that the survey has brought to light

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