As more tech jobs continue to come to Middle Tennessee, officials say more workers are needed to keep up with the rising demand.
Local business leaders and educators gathered at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin last week for the Let’s Talk Tech forum.
The event, sponsored by the Gallatin Economic Development Agency and the college, focused on workforce needs of the local technology sector and ways to grow workforce necessary for the growing industry.
“You don’t have to move to California to work in tech,” Facebook Community Development Regional Manager Katie Comer told those in attendance last week. “There are such a variety of jobs in this field. It’s not only people behind computers.”
Last year, there were 35,190 tech workers employed in the Nashville metro area – an increase of 36 percent since 2015, according to the recently released Scoring Tech Talent annual report from CBRE Group. Most of those new jobs appeared within the last two years.
The report also found that there were 5,007 more new tech positions than local graduates to fill them during the last five years.
“Our data centers have a variety of high-tech jobs available,” Comer said about the variety of available jobs throughout the industry. “And it’s more than just working with the data servers; it’s also heating and air conditioning specialists, electricians and electrical engineers.”
According to the report, there were 5.4 million tech workers across the United States in 2020. The number of workers in the field has increased 13 percent during the last five years – more than double the overall national job growth rate.
Panelists noted during the forum last week that there are many ways to get into a career in tech, with some being even quicker than the typical two or four-year degree path.
The average age of a student in Vol State’s computer programs is 31, according to Andy White, dean of business and technology at the college. Many students work in construction or other fields and take classes at night to increase their skills.
“I started at a two-year school,” Servpro Chief Information Officer Jeff Fields added. “You have to be open to change and new things. That’s the key to working in technology.”
This year, Volunteer State Community College is expanding its academic offerings in computer information technology. Those include a wide range of certifications and degree programs, including a concentration in cyber defense.
The college also partners with the Greater Nashville Technology Council for a program called Go TECH. The IT Infrastructure Support Professional course focuses on computer fundamentals and infrastructure and is free for selected applicants thanks to a state grant.
“We’ve got a great faculty team, a great family of programs and we’re working to spread the word… and help more students succeed in those programs,” White said. “We’ve got what they need to meet the workforce needs. We’ve just got to make sure we deliver it in a way that increases success rates.”