October Tech Upload
New IT News
Increasing need for IT workers
Back in September, the Wallstreet Journal reported on a CompTIA study that companies added more than 140,000 information-technology workers in August, bringing the total number of US IT jobs to more than 5.6 million. And more jobs are requiring tech skills. This, of course, happened in a very low unemployment labor market. The national unemployment rate stood at 3.7% in August and Wisconsin’s rate was lower at 3.1%. CompTIA estimated unemployment among tech workers at 1.3% in June. All these rates are below what economists believe to be what would be seen in labor markets with full employment. As employers continue to expect to increase their IT workforce, finding talent is becoming increasingly difficult.
AI technologies help those with visual disabilities to find jobs
One solution could be for employers to look to alternative audiences for talent. That’s what we did at the NEW IT Alliance TechTalent Summit, a member-only event held on September 26. At the summit we heard presentations from Dr. Don Heath, Assistant Professor of Information Systems at UW Oshkosh, on his research on how mobile technology can support blind people completing college and working effectively in IT jobs. We were particularly impressed with the potential of Microsoft’s SeeingAI mobile app, which allows visually impaired people to identify people in their environment, read written text, and identify products. In one experiment, Dr. Heath showed hiring managers two video vignettes illustrating some of what blind people are able to do when assisted by technology. This led to a significant increase in the likelihood these managers would hire people with visual disabilities.
In another presentation, Dr. Ed Jedlicka and Bryan Mischler from the Treffert Center, part of SSM Health, showed the potential and the challenges faced by people who are on the autism spectrum. While many of them have savant skills in one or two areas, they often struggle with social situations. The Treffert Center runs a school for children on the spectrum where they are taught how to build on their strong skills to better handle difficult situations. While unemployment among people with autism is very high, many of those who have employment have found success within IT. We heard that some forward-looking companies have set quotas for different diversity areas, including having a certain percentage of people on the spectrum working in their IT departments.
Another theme of the summit was how to increase collaboration between industry and academia within the IT space. To kick off that part of the program we heard from Dr. Shannon Rawski, Assistant Professor of Human Resources at UW Oshkosh and Eden Weller, Sr. Customer & Market Insights Mgr. at J. J. Keller & Associates. They talked about their collaboration which combined Dr. Rawski’s expertise on Sexual Harassment Prevention Training and J.J. Keller’s Market Research to produce training products available to J.J. Keller’s customers. We were particularly intrigued by an upcoming foray into using virtual reality in sexual harassment prevention training. The talk spurred great conversations in the speed dating portion of the program on how to expand the pipeline and insights on how companies can connect with faculty and students to work on projects and grow skills needed in the workforce. A few areas mentioned as strong needs right now are people with SAP experience who can also program in ABAP, data analytics, and infrastructure/cloud architecture.
We plan to hold future summits to continue highlighting relevant themes, and are looking into opening future summits up to non-member audiences as well. For more information about future TechTalent Summits, or to share ideas on what is important to you, check out our event page or contact us at [email protected]
NEW Connect IT Job and Career Fair
Coming up in November, we hope to continue the conversations at the NEW Connect IT. In its third year this event will again be held at Lambeau Field. Last year we attracted 500 high school students. We expect to increase that number but will cap the event at 750 students who will have an opportunity to explore different IT careers, learn from colleges what education programs will prepare them and from companies what it really means to work for a local company in IT.
We have made several exciting changes to the event, including development of a skit to help students understand the different roles in IT and how they interact, as well as the introduction of a panel discussion to kick things off. High schools interested in attending can sign up here. Colleges and companies who would like a booth to interact with high school and college students, as well as job seekers can sign up here. Booths are free for NEW IT Alliance members. We are also looking for IT professionals to volunteer to help make the event a success – sign up here to volunteer.