by Matt Cookson, NHHTC Executive Director
Running a technology council is a unique job. As far as I know, I only have about 75-100 peers across North America. The majority of them belong to an organization called the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), and we are fresh off a CEO retreat where we shared new ideas, best practices and challenges.
While we all operate our organizations differently and range in staff size from 1-20, we are noncompetitive and I always come back with new ideas to consider for New Hampshire. What follows are some tidbits I picked up from my two days in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada (yes, they held the meeting 545 miles northeast of New Hampshire in late March).
About 40 councils were represented at the meeting, with 35 from the states and five from Canada. Regardless of location, there was unanimous agreement that the issue of having an available workforce for tech-related jobs was the number one priority. Never before has everyone had the same priority. Like New Hampshire (with the lowest unemployment rate in the country), other regions cannot fill current openings and are often moving the deck chairs around as companies attract workers away from current employers within the region instead of growing or retraining new ones.
We heard from industry experts about the habits and preferences of the millennials, the demographic group of workers (19-36 years old) that now represents the largest sector of the workforce. This sector is attracted to urban areas, want to do well by doing good, don’t like structured hours, and many are carrying levels of college loan debt that impact life decisions, such as buying a home or having children. From a tech employment standpoint, the debt issue can be a deterrent when considering working for a start-up.
In terms of resources to address workforce needs, some councils receive state funds, while others are supported by federal grants or corporate contributions to establish training programs. Partnerships and collaboration is key, but there was a sense of concern that some training programs are not being customized to meet today’s tech labor needs. As a result, TECNA will be issuing a best practices report later this year that will be very valuable as states like New Hampshire look to develop very targeted training programs to help our tech workforce advance their skills.
Other hot topics included cybersecurity and the fact that many councils have created member cluster groups that get together to discuss the ongoing challenges of security in a rapidly changing digital environment. Opportunities around building smart cities was a lively topic, given that corporations like Cisco have been supporting developments in urban areas through their Smart+Connected Communities program.