As the competition for tech companies and talent heats up, cities are looking for new ways to attract and retain the best and brightest in the industry. Tech councils are playing an increasingly important role in these initiatives, connecting businesses and talent within their local ecosystems.
Despite downsizing in the industry, the demand for specialized skills and talent remains high. In this blog, we'll explore how tech councils can help bring more talent to their cities and support the growth of local tech ecosystems.
Technology councils have evolved from being mere networking opportunities for people in tech fields to becoming key players in developing technology industries. Their impact extends beyond just the tech industry as they act as an influential hub to attract people and companies to a region.
Tech councils play a significant role in the economic base of the regions in which they operate, bringing in jobs, tax revenue, housing, amenities and a new culture to cities and states.
Let’s use Missouri as an example. Once a state known primarily for agriculture and livestock, the state has seen a dramatic boom in technology jobs over the past few years, accounting for as much as 12% of all state revenue.
The cost of living and quality of life can be tremendous draws for many cities that may not have previously been known as destination markets.
Tech councils are critically important in attracting new people to their cities. Even those workers who are remote or hybrid often travel to their business’ home state. They are also great “word of mouth marketers” and can convince talented colleagues and co-workers to relocate, reducing company hiring expenses.
Additionally, your council can generate new revenue and opportunities. As companies and their workers come to your city, they may join your council, attend fee-based events, sponsor your organization, assist with lobbying efforts and even eventually serve on your Board.
But, fostering this type of ecosystem and culture of innovation isn’t easy. We had the opportunity to talk with Emily Hemingway, Executive Director at TechSTL, the first technology council of St. Louis, and Christian Gaddis, Director of Forge Buffalo at 43North, to get their insights on how their organizations are tackling the unique challenges technology councils face today.
In this article, we’ll share tips for how to approach the following challenges and scenarios affecting tech councils today:
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the level of engagement among people, as we all began to embrace the comfort of working from home. Accelerator events and workshopping came to a screeching halt, and in-person events became much more optional. As a result, working professionals have become more selective about how they spend their time, making it challenging for technology councils to draw them back to in-person networking events.
Emily from Tech STL advises councils to be specific about the value you're creating and the experiences you're offering. You need to be intentional about providing social experiences, entertainment, and human connection since that's what draws people out.
“We started a weekly evening series at the local Venture Café St. Louis where we can bring in more seasoned individuals. Curated experiences that draw these power players out are essential, and we need to be intentional about doing so,” says Emily.
Christian mentioned that one of Forge Buffalo’s flagship events is a casual career fair, featuring a DJ and 360 photo-booth. Previously, the organization hosted an outdoor movie night with food trucks. The team even created a social media contest for followers to vote on the movie of the night in advance.
Another common challenge tech councils face is educating talent and the community about what it means to work at a startup. Christian Gaddis from Forge Buffalo says it’s important to create educational resources you can leverage.
“Working for a startup is often associated with instability, whether that’s true or not, it can deter potential candidates. You have to showcase the benefits and opportunities of working in tech startups in your area,” says Christian.
Another misconception Christian recommends addressing is that you need a technical background to work at a startup.
“People may need help in order to find their place in your ecosystem. Show them that there are many exciting and rewarding roles available that do not necessarily require a technical background, like marketing and sales roles,” says Christian.
Showcasing all job opportunities with startups in your area is essential to direct talent to a single online source. Tech councils can leverage Consider job boards, which scrape jobs automatically, so your website is always up to date with little effort.
When you have a job board on your Tech Council’s site, it not only builds traffic but also increases the perceived value of your site and your organization.
When candidates see a tech job board, they realize that your city is a booming hub for technology-related employment. That can be powerful in changing and growing a region’s perception.
As Emily from Tech STL said:
"Our new Consider job board has been a total game changer for our tech talent pipeline! For the first time, we have one centralized place to direct talent to in our community and we no longer have to spend time moving jobs manually. Any regional or national technology council that wants to promote its community’s opportunities, needs a powerful job board solution. You can’t do this work without one.”
You may be thinking that you don’t have the time or resources to create and maintain that talent platform, but at Consider have created a “plug-and-play” solution, specifically for organizations like the St. Louis Tech Council. Learn more about our talent platform here.
Networking events create a space for individuals to build relationships and make connections with others in their field, which can lead to job opportunities and career growth. Hosting networking events that feature both technical and non-technical professionals is crucial for giving potential talent the ability to see themselves in certain roles or companies.
When you provide a platform for local professionals to share their career story, it can resonate with talent and help them envision themselves in various roles within the technology industry.
By bringing together a diverse group of professionals, attendees can hear from those who have different backgrounds and experiences, making it easier to connect and find common ground. Of course, in order to bring power players to the table to share their story you may need to incentivize them. Give them a reason to show up for their community!
Whether you encourage startup founders to talk about what they’re building or showcase a nonprofit they’re involved in at the same time, get creative with how a speaking engagement can be mutually beneficial.
The expense of hosting events can often be offset by collaborating with other local groups, like chambers of commerce, economic development groups and larger corporations.
Emily explains that St. Louis has 12 universities in its region, but unfortunately, most of that talent leaves after graduating.
“We have to make St. Louis a place where it's easy to engage in the talent pipeline and get connected to the community, so these students see a future for them here. They need to see a road to a great job or great startup. We have to work together to break down those walls,” Emily says.
In order to create that road, Emily recommends working with your partners to run events that can provide students with direct connections to growing companies.
Partner with local schools, colleges, and universities. You’ll reach people starting careers in tech or re-skilling/upskilling. Your members can also provide internship and mentorship programs within their own companies.
This not only helps the hiring companies, but it also reinforces the role of your tech council as the “go-to” organization for job seekers and local talent. Supporting the education system ensures that you’re playing a role in attracting and preparing tomorrow’s talent.
It takes time and focus, but the steps above can help your Council play a broader role in attracting new talent to your area. Tech jobs will continue to grow, and new U.S. manufacturing facilities methods and the rapid growth of AI will create competitive opportunities for new skills.
Ready to start driving more talent to your city? Your region and your council can become thought leaders and attractive magnets for that talent base. Get in touch with us to learn how you can make every job and every company in your network accessible to applicants from a central career page on your website.