Brian Finch is senior vice president for strategic initiatives of the Greater Washington Partnership. Greater Washington Partnership is a very important organization here in our region. It’s composed by twenty members representing companies like Under Armour, Capital One, and MedImmune. Collectively, the twenty board members and their companies constitute as a group the leading employers in our region. So, the Greater Washington Partnership talks about the to address like workforce development, we should pay attention. Brian, we’re here to talk today about a recent study that you released talking about our tech workforce. But before we do that, tell our listeners, what is the Greater Washington Partnership?
FINCH: The Partnership’s a civic alliance of CEOs, many are the leading employers in the capital region–spanning Baltimore to Richmond. The organization came out of an effort a couple years ago that tried to bring the Olympics to the region in 2024. That effort saw the Olympics not just as an exciting showcase of our city and region, but really as a way to drive some cross-jurisdictional decisions on big issues that matter to our region–things like transportation, housing, environmental issues. And while the the olympic decision went a different way, there was a recognition that those issues are still here, and there was a recognition that the group of employers and entrepreneurs that were around the table could still provide a connective tissue in addressing what are often cross-jurisdictional challenges in this region. So the core of what we’re trying to do is change the trajectory to go from underperforming to the performance level that we’re capable of.
ABERMAN: What are some of the things that came out of this survey that you think everybody really should be focusing on, as we built our economy?
FINCH: So one of the interesting thing we found in this study is just how well-positioned this region, spanning Baltimore to Richmond, is to be a global leader in digital technology, as a region we’re home to a deep pool of digital tech workers–in fact, we rank second on a per capita basis, behind only the Bay Area in California. One in every sixteen jobs in our region is a digital tech occupation, not to mention the increasing digital content spanning all occupations and industries that exist here in the capital region. We also boast an unparalleled pipeline for producing tech talent. We’ve got more than one hundred higher education institutions in our region, which is really unmatched. And because of that, we produce the largest number of digital tech-oriented degrees and certificates of any region in the country. However, our region has been losing share of these important digital tech jobs. Over the last five years, we’ve grown these jobs at a three-percent clip, so that’s still positive, that’s about eight thousand net jobs, but it’s at a place far slower than twelve-percent growth rate that we’re seeing elsewhere around the country. There’s about thirty-five thousand unfilled digital tech jobs right now in our region, and that’s a constraint on our employers’ ability to grow their operations here.
ABERMAN: So we’ve got this interesting phenomenon where we literally are the training ground for the retooling of the workforce, nationally? You know, we’re generating more digitally savvy people here out of our academic institutions than any place in the country. We’ve got a lot of people in the industry, but yet, there are thirty thousand, by your estimate, and others, thirty-to-forty thousand jobs right now that are unfilled and could be filled if we had the workforce. Is the problem that we’re not producing enough, or is the problem that we’re not producing the right people? You’ve done a lot of work now around the workforce. What are you hearing?
FINCH: Our report looked very closely at one occupation, information security analyst, to get at the root causes of these digital tech job gaps that you talked about. Cybersecurity jobs
are a very digital-intensive occupation and those represent about fifteen percent of all those openings that you talked about in the region. In the paper, we lay out five areas where we think our region needs to up its game, and this needs to happen collectively, starting with the employer community and involving the education institutions, as well as government. It starts with employers communicating more specific demand signals about the talent that they need. Those signals can motivate education institutions, help them tailor the curriculum, and it can motivate students and job seekers to go get educated in those fields. One of the things we did was conduct a survey of the twenty organizations that we have around our board table and what they shared with us is that, over the next five years, those organizations alone estimate they’re need to hire more than 135 thousand people in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, and that includes twenty thousand workers in this subset of highly digital-intensive occupations that we’re talking about. And these employers really rely on locally developed talent to fill those jobs. As digital technology becomes more infused in all aspects of the workplace, we know that, and our report talks about, we need to scale programs at the kindergarten through grade twelve level. And then, there’s a really we found in terms of the level of experience that employers are asking for, and, you know, the level of experience that students start coming out of university with. And so, how can we scale the the number of internships and work-based learning opportunities for students, particularly at the post-secondary level?
ABERMAN: That was Brian Finch, senior vice president for strategic initiatives of the Greater Washington Partnership.