The Future of Upstate Must Focus On IT Jobs

If we’re serious about creating more high-paying jobs in Upstate New York, we must put careers in information technology front and center in our thinking – let’s think IT Jobs!

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can’t account entirely for rapid market changes and tech disruptions, their forecasts consistently show strong growth across the board in IT professions through 2024. More than a million jobs are projected to be created and some IT jobs may see average annual salary increases as high as nine percent.

Where are the best opportunities? An Information Week survey of salary increases awarded in IT jobs over the last year produced the following top-ten ranking:

1. Wireless Network Engineer: 9.7 percent
2. Data Scientist: 8.9 percent
3. Big Data Engineer: 8.9 percent
4. Mobile Application Developer: 8.2 percent
5. Chief Security Officer: 7.0 percent
6. Developer/Program Analyst: 6.8 percent
7. Lead Application Developer: 6.7 percent
8. Senior Web Developer: 6.6 percent
9. Web Developer: 6.4 percent
10. Data Architect: 6.4 percent

Entry to most IT jobs requires a bachelor’s or graduate degree, but that’s not the case for programmers – the people who do the real nuts and bolts necessary to build, maintain and upgrade web sites and mobile applications. Just about anything you want to do to a website, app, cloud service, or device requires a coder to make and maintain the change. The need for coders is exploding because software and networks are transforming every industry you can think of.

To address the programmer shortage, coding “bootcamps” are springing up to provide the intensive vocational/professional training needed by coders to work sites’ front end, backend and “full stack” – all the layers of a web application.

Take StartFast Code, for example. Centered in downtown Syracuse, this is an intense 12-to-24 week coding bootcamp that trains students as full-stack developers able to meet the needs of local employers. A home-grown effort aimed at meeting a major local need, the program employs a so-called “flipped classroom” approach, enabling students to proceed through an online curriculum at their own pace. Students are able to work directly with the StartFast Venture Accelerator to solve real problems, in real time, and to be paid for their work.

Unfortunately, the professional skills required by coders generally aren’t taught in high school or college course in the United States. They should be. Great Britain recently announced that coding would soon be made part of the core curriculum in the country’s primary and secondary schools. In Estonia, coding class starts in first grade. In Silicon Valley, many children are introduced to coding through their parents or through the schools.

For the last two years, I’ve been directly involved in helping schools increase their “IT awareness” and increase their focus on digital education. From primary school through college, we need to increase our young peoples’ digital competency and we need new policies that give local school districts the flexibility and resources to experiment and follow the paths that best serve their communities.