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Building the tech talent pipeline

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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By taking a data-driven approach, regions can pinpoint the strengths and gaps in their pool of tech talent and prioritize investments to boost competitiveness and collaboration.

Amazon’s search for its HQ2 location sparked fierce competition among US metropolitan areas, as their leaders viewed the headquarters as a game changer for economic development. However, the bidding process also shone a spotlight on the issues of talent development and retention—common challenges for metropolitan areas around the world.

While low interest rates have given companies easy access to money, a reliable pool of qualified workers has become the scarcer capital. And if technology is now the growth engine for business, tech talent and the institutions that produce it are the fuel. Regions recognize that tech workers such as data analysts, web developers, engineers, and the like are a prerequisite for economic development. Yet few metropolitan areas understand the dynamic talent ecosystem—including skills, diversity, and mobility—and how to take coordinated action to move the needle.

When the HQ2 bid was announced, the Capital Region (which encompasses Baltimore; Richmond and northern Virginia; and Washington, DC) had already begun to implement programs to deepen its talent pool. The goal of these efforts was to ensure the region had enough workers with the right skills to satisfy the demand for tech talent across the private and public sectors. To better understand the talent landscape, McKinsey partnered with the Greater Washington Partnership to conduct in-depth research into the Capital Region and other top US metro areas (see sidebar, “About the research”). The result was unprecedented visibility into talent imbalances and common trends as well as new insights into how civic leaders can deal with them effectively.

The HQ2 bid accelerated the Capital Region’s pursuit of a comprehensive talent effort, but metropolitan areas shouldn’t wait for a similar trigger to act. Instead, they should mobilize stakeholders around a coordinated strategy. First, metro areas should evaluate supply imbalances for their tech talent pool. Next, they should prioritize the available tools based on their potential to address talent gaps. Leaders can—and must—convene partners from the government and academia to collaborate on efforts to produce, attract, and retain talented workers. The Capital Region’s experience provides a valuable point of reference.

 

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