Atlanta is sometimes referred to as the Silicon Valley of the South. The city has major tech companies, start-ups and universities.
One problem? Not enough workers. Rodney Sampson is chairman of Opportunity Hub and a partner at Tech Square Labs in Midtown Atlanta.
“The computing job shortage will be a million-plus by 2020,” Sampson said. “And so are those going to be Americans in those jobs? Who’s going to be in those jobs?”
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That shortage is why he started a program two years ago called Code Start. It’s currently on pause as he seeks funding to expand the program statewide.
Georgia employers posted a daily average of 5,010 job openings on their websites over the past 30 days for IT-related jobs, according to the Technology Association of Georgia.
Sampson’s free, yearlong training program at Tech Square Labs is just one of the many initiatives in Atlanta to develop future programmers.
He said the city can’t depend solely on Georgia Tech to fill high-demand computing jobs.
It’s one reason why other universities, like Georgia State University, are stepping up. Its students are required to take natural science or computational science classes in order to graduate.
Catherine Neiner, Georgia State University’s director of career services, said computer science is gaining in popularity as a major, but there’s also a lot of overlap between disciplines.
“We’re seeing students going into all kinds of different majors but fortunately being able to infuse that software development and the data analytics into their majors,” Neiner said.
Quality Of Life
Invest Atlanta, which recruits companies to Atlanta, said it hasn’t seen any issues filling these jobs or attracting tech talent.
But Kevin Johnson, senior vice president of economic development, said the city could work on investing in itself.
“What we have to continue to do is address our challenges. The city’s addressing these challenges by bonds passed for transportation, expansion of MARTA, building a smarter, more sustainable city, investing in attractions, putting in parks, completing the BeltLine,” Johnson said. “Corporations, when they look at us, it gives them confidence that it may not be perfect, but [Atlanta is] in tune with what we need to focus on as a community.”
Johnson said if Atlanta focuses on improving its quality of life, it’ll help attract even more tech companies.
Jaimal Scott works with TEKSystems, a national IT staffing firm. His firm helps recruit candidates for more than 178 companies in Atlanta.
He said companies are constantly looking to fill thousands of unfilled computing positions, but more and more of them, like Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, are also looking for more diverse talent.
“I think it’s healthy from a cultural standpoint in my personal opinion. It increases awareness around other people’s cultures; another angle to look at certain crisis issues, initiatives, scenarios, projects. Especially because Atlanta is one of the more diverse cities in America.”
Tech leaders say the city’s demographics and cost of living works to its favor. As long as educators produce the skilled labor, they predict more and more tech companies will continue to call Atlanta home.
Atlanta voters are preparing to elect a new mayor and replace nearly half the City Council. In this moment of transition, WABE is exploring “The Future of Atlanta.”