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Tech Collective Releases Rhode Island Information Technology Skills Gap Report

Tech Collective, Rhode Island’s Information Technology and Bioscience industry association, today released its “Why IT Works” Rhode Island Information Technology Skills Gap Study.

The first state-wide industry report since 2007, “Why IT Works” comprehensively focuses on Rhode Island’s high-tech, high-growth IT industry – identifying its workforce skills gaps at the entry and mid-levels; career pathways and professional development; education pipeline from K-12 through higher education; and offering recommendations to move forward.

The study was conducted by Community Economic Futures and Tech Collective. Over the past 14 months, it was researched and compiled using local and national industry data and garnering Rhode Island employer and employee insights via focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and surveys. Findings of the report aim to raise awareness of and guide investments in Rhode Island’s IT workforce.

Industry Overview

Rhode Island employs 13,500 IT professionals and growing. IT employment is almost evenly split across “core” IT industry sectors (IT services, software, networking, etc.) and “utility” companies across other industries (finance, healthcare, education, etc.). Rhode Island’s “core” IT industry supports 19,000 jobs, including professionals with non-IT occupations.

Report Findings

The “Why IT Works” report determines that Rhode Island does indeed face an IT skills gap, but it is not alone; comprising 2.7% of all employment in the state, Rhode Island is actually at the U.S. average. Still, Rhode Island IT employers are continually recruiting, with only 65% saying their current IT talent base is “adequate.”

Skills gap findings in the report highlight employers’ critical need for IT talent with both technical and professional skill sets. Top technical needs include: project management, programming, web design, software development, and business analysts. Top professional skills include: big-picture perspective, leadership, and the ability to understand business needs. In an industry that is becoming continuously service-oriented and customer-facing, being able to communicate with “non-technical” clients and relate technological capabilities to benefit the business is of the highest value to employers.

The report also explores the many available IT career pathways and development opportunities. IT professionals enter the industry from a variety of backgrounds and continue developing their skill sets throughout their careers. Education channels include: degrees in or outside of IT, industry-recognized IT certifications, and innovative short-term training programs.

Recommendations

As IT employers anticipate growth over the next 3-5 years, recommendations following the report reflect the need to expand, enhance, and support STEM and IT opportunities for Rhode Island, including for students, transitioning workers, and employed IT professionals (incumbent workers). Support for on-going technology-related initiatives, including digital literacy, entrepreneurship, and economic growth was also emphasized. Another recommendation suggests creating a state-wide IT “pipeline and resource assessment” to identify and make available programs and resources to Rhode Island IT employers, workers, and the industry at large.

Focus on Connections and Growth

Following its recommendations, the report aims to serve as a strategic tool, engaging and connecting all public and private workforce and industry related programs, initiatives and agencies. One such collaborative agency is Commerce RI (formerly the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation):

"It is the mission of Commerce RI to work with public, private and non-profit partners to create the conditions for businesses in all sectors to thrive and to improve the quality of life for our citizens by promoting the State's long-term economic health and prosperity,” said Commerce RI Executive Director Marcel A. Valois. “We rely on organizations like Tech Collective that bring added value by delivering industry specific data to help make more strategic decisions.”

“Understanding the need of our IT employers is one of the most valuable tools we can have,” said Kathie Shields, Tech Collective’s executive director. “The ‘Why IT Works’ report is a strategic guide we can use together as a state over the next 1-3 years. It will allow us to further existing initiatives and create and sustain new programming needed to close the skills gap across the workforce pipeline. Rhode Island’s IT industry is a strong asset; this report is a framework for us to create a workforce from which both our industry and economy can continue to grow.”

The skills gap study was funded by an Industry Partnership grant through the Governor’s Workforce Board of Rhode Island (GWBRI). Tech Collective released the first Rhode Island IT Skills Gap report in 2007, also funded by GWBRI, which values such workforce reports from each of its eight industry partners as opportunities to identify areas of success, need, and recommendations for future funding and initiatives.

Skills Gap Forum Series

In addition to its IT skills gap study, Tech Collective will be releasing its Rhode Island Bioscience Skills Gap Report in February 2014. The release of the report will be followed by a six-part monthly “Skills Gap Series.” Featuring a panel of Rhode Island leaders and stakeholders, each forum is an opportunity to discuss the findings of the reports as well as current and future initiatives the state can undertake to grow and innovate in these industries.

There will be three forums per industry, each focusing on Industry, Education, and Government. All forums will be morning sessions held at Save the Bay. The first forum will focus on the IT industry and be held on Wednesday, February 26, 2014. The Skills Gap Series forums are open to the public. Industry, academic, and state leaders and stakeholders are encouraged to attend.

For more information or to download Tech Collective’s “Why IT Works” Rhode Island IT Skills Gap Report, visit www.tech-collective.org.

About Tech Collective:

Tech Collective is Rhode Island’s Bioscience and Information Technology Industry Association. Uniting industry, government and academic stakeholders, our mission is to inspire, engage, educate and employ a high-skill, high-wage Knowledge Economy in Rhode Island. Since its transition from the Rhode Island Technology Council (RITEC) in 2004, Tech Collective has received more than $8M in federal, state and private grant funding to foster industry and workforce awareness, collaboration, and development through forums and initiatives including: Tech10, GRRL Tech, Women in Technology, Bio-Ed, and STEM-based education and training programs for K-16 students as well as incumbent and transitioning workers. Get connected to Tech Collective at www.tech-collective.org, on Facebook (TechCollectiveRI), Twitter (@Tech_Collective), and on Linkedin (Tech Collective).

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