In February 2020, the Capital CoLAB, an initiative of the Greater Washington Partnership, partnered with McKinsey & Company on a tech talent market diagnostic of the Capital Region. The findings are hard to ignore: without expanding learners’ and workers’ access to the tech talent pipeline, close to 60,000 tech related positions may go unfilled annually by 2025.
The Partnership’s early labor market research defined “digital tech” using a list of 20 occupations. As we consider a growing body of research on automation and its implications for the workforce (e.g., work from McKinsey & Company and Brookings Institution), as well as input on hiring trends from Partnership board companies, we realize it is important to understand tech talent using a broader lens. In our latest analysis, the tech workforce is defined more in terms of tech creators and tech users, which has implications for how we think about the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed most in the Capital Region.
This approach seeks to understand the ever-evolving demand for tech skills beyond the IT world. By looking at both “tech” (occupations that develop technology) and “tech adjacent” (occupations that use technology extensively), we can better align real demand and supply while developing strategies to prepare the next generation of workers in our region. With this occupational framing as the foundation for our analysis, various findings emerged:
- If left unaddressed, the tech skills gap could cause close to 60,000 tech related positions to go unfilled annually in the Capital Region by 2025. Despite being the second-largest tech hub in the nation, the forecasted tech supply gap in the Capital Region is ~50% for tech talent and ~67% for tech adjacent talent.
- The lack of diversity is acute in the Capital Region’s tech workforce as Black and African American and Hispanic and Latino tech workers are under-represented. Although the Capital Region’s tech related workforce is more diverse than that of our peers and the U.S. as a whole, numbers are still low compared to the total workforce (which faces its own disparities as well). Only 17% of tech workers are Black or African American and only 5% of workers are Hispanic or Latino, but, respectively, they make up 25% and 9% of the total workforce. Lack of representation won’t naturally resolve itself, as major feeder schools have the same diversity issues in tech programs that we see in the tech workforce.
- Software Developers and Computer Systems Analysts continue to be in high demand — following the same trend, management, cloud computing, and software development related skills will rise in importance for Capital Region employers. While the future demand for Software Developers (applications and systems software) and Computer Systems Analysts will continue to be high, the demand for tech adjacent jobs like Management Analysts, Business Operations Specialists, Market Research and Human Resource Analysts and Specialists is also growing in the region.
- While the future of STEM occupations is promising, automation is expected to negatively impact jobs where women, minorities and non-college degree holders make up most of the workforce. Jobs in Health and STEM will increase in the region over the next ten years, even with displacement due to automation. However, the jobs that women, minorities, and workers without a college degree disproportionately hold — office support, customer service and sales, production, and food services — will likely decline. These workers will need to improve their digital literacy to execute the same tasks as before.
The Capital CoLAB (Collaborative of Leaders in Academia and Business) is a first-of-its-kind alliance of university and business leaders who have come together to take action to strengthen the Capital Region. The CoLAB is currently working to enhance digital technology education through the development and expansion of the Partnership’s Digital Technology Credentials.