Fox Valley: WI Work Here

The N.E.W. Digital Alliance featuring Kim Iversen

September 06, 2021 Kevin Virobik with Kim Iversen Season 1 Episode 0
Fox Valley: WI Work Here
The N.E.W. Digital Alliance featuring Kim Iversen
Show Notes Transcript

Are you curious about careers in the Information or Digital Technology fields?

Kim Iversen, Executive Director of the N.E.W. Digital Alliance, provides a 30,000-foot overview of tech industry in the NEW North region in this special bonus episode of WI Work Here. 

The NEW Digital Alliance specializes in building the IT and Digital Tech pipeline in our region. These jobs are highly in-demand featuring competitive wages.  Our area has fewer trained candidates than available career opportunities. 

IT and Digital Tech positions offer a great opportunity for those seeking to change careers while also willing to add to their skillset. 

One update: During the interview Kim states that only 1,200 computer science majors graduated nationally -- that is actually the number of computer science majors who graduated in Wisconsin. 

Contact us at [email protected]

(Episode recorded July 12, 2021). 

Kevin Virobik:

I'm Kevin Virobik and this is Fox ValleyWI Work Here. I'm an expert at connecting businesses with Wisconsin's talented 21st century workforce. On this special bonus episode, we're going to pivot to take a look at an entire industry sector rather than a specific company. I'm joined by Kim Iverson, the director of the N.E.W. Digital Alliance. Kim will share a high level overview of the demand for talent in the information and digital technology fields, the opportunities for family sustaining careers, and how candidates from other industry sectors can use their transferable skills to transition into tech. Now let's hear more with Kim. Kim Iverson Welcome to the show.

Kim Iversen:

Thank you, Kevin, I am so thrilled to be here today.

Kevin Virobik:

Share with our audience a little bit about you and the N.E.W. Digital Alliance.

Kim Iversen:

I'm the executive director for theN.E.W. Digital Alliance. We are a small nonprofit focused on advancing collaboration efforts that promote the tech health of the region. And what this really means is we're working with K-12, Higher Ed. as well as local employers to understand their challenges in helping us build the information technology and digital talent pipeline; and work with them to close the gaps from. From an adult or professional level, this means we're sharing resumes with our investors. We're working with colleges and upskilling organizations to develop new programs; as well as re-skilling opportunities for people who might be looking to gather additional skills in their field or skill over to the I.T. or digital career field. We also connect leaders to discuss skills that they are looking for, as well as getting them together in a room so they can share challenges as well as wins in skilling, their incumbent workforce or even connecting with job seekers. And then we like to connect with workforce development programs and help connect people who are seeking with the employers in the area.

Kevin Virobik:

N.E.W Digital Alliance is a relatively new organization -- about four plus years old now.What was the problem that you're seeking to solve within our N.E.W. North area?

Kim Iversen:

Back in 2015, a group of leaders came together and got talking about how they're struggling to find I.T. talent. They pulled together a larger group of organizations and conducted a survey. That survey indicated that by 2021, we were expecting to have about 3000 new I.T. positions in Northeast Wisconsin that we would be unable to fill. This survey did not look at our number of individuals required to backfill positions due to retirement or other attrition. This was strictly new job creation. So here we are 2021. And honestly, the market now is hotter than it was back in 2015. So that crystal balls probably a little on the short side. Currently looking at national unemployment trend: Nationally, we're looking at 5.5% unemployment, here in Wisconsin 3.9%. But nationally for I.T., we're at 2.4% unemployment. That number has dipped down as low as 1.9%, even during the pandemic period. Inemployment in I.T. now is even lower than it was pre-pandemic when we were at or just slightly above 3% unemployment. Going back to those 3000 jobs here in Northeast Wisconsin: by not being able to fill those job openings, we're actually losing out in about $200 million worth of economic growth in region by those jobs remaining open. And that's simply because of salaries due to the individuals that don't exist, but also the jobs that are created for every I..T. position that's filled. That multiplier effect is something like 2.7. So for every I.T. person employed, we're creating another 2.7 jobs in the community. I just did a quick search for I.T. jobs within about a 50 mile radius. What might I find between here and Green Bay? There were over 307 I.T. positions open today. Many of those entry level jobs kind of in that help desk area, they're citing start salaries of $45,000. That's not bad for an entry level position. And of course, the more skilled you are those salaries go way up. Some of our coding jobs. You're looking at triple figures for some of those core areas that are in high demand. C ode.org back in 2018, estimated there'd be about 6400 open computing jobs in the nation with an average salary of about $80,000. That's not a bad salary, Kevin. And at the same time in 2018, we only graduated about 1200 computer science majors nationally. You can see there's a huge gap. That means there's a lot of opportunity for those individuals who are looking to maybe switch career areas.

Kevin Virobik:

Some are calling this post-COVID period, the "Great Realignment," where a number of workers are seeking to find a new career path. Kim, share with us some of the transferable skills that someone would need to be able to get a position in the tech industry.

Kim Iversen:

So there's transferable skills, and then there is skill acquisition. So we'll kind of talk about those in two different segments here. Good communication skills is what every employer is talking about. And of course, the ability to work in teams. Those are critical from our employers perspective. So if you're in a job today, where you're at a customer service role, where you are working with others on a regular basis, collaborating to get your job done, those skills are definitely transferable into the I.T. field. I.T. is often thought of as being a rather solitary job. But that couldn't be farther from the truth, Kevin, in I.T., you are working closely with your customer, whether they're internal customers, or external customers to understand their needs. And then you're working with teams of people within your organization to get the project done successfully and meet those customer requirements. Software system experience as a business user is another skill set that can be easily transferable. So many companies use something called an ERP system or an enterprise resource planning system, which helps them with everything from running their manufacturing processes, to sending out payroll. If you are a business user who is working in that -- whether it's in your role on the HR team, on the shop floor, whatever your current role might be -- just the fact that you have knowledge about how that system functions, and the business processes around it, that can be transferable into an I.T. team in roles such as a business analyst role, where that business analyst is that person who has to understand a little bit of how the system works, and be able to talk to the IT department to say how it needs to be modified. Business process knowledge and just from doing your regular old job, is also transferable into the IT department. So I.T. is really all about improving how we do things within a company. If you understand those processes, particularly if you are somebody who likes to talk about business process improvement, then collaboration with or even full transfer into an IT team can be a job that would be excellent for you. Bring those skills over and help identify what those new processes should be. And then help the teams that are doing the more technical side of the coding, make those changes in the systems to make everybody else's life a little bit better.

Kevin Virobik:

What sort of opportunities are available for adult learners in our area to be able to upskill to be even more prepared for these jobs in the future?

Kim Iversen:

Oh, gosh, the opportunities, they're almost as varied as the different types of jobs within IT. And this is one of those things that we've been talking about in our upskilling and rescaling roundtable, because many of our employers don't even know of all the different opportunities to hire from or even to send their incumbent workforce to for re-skilling and upskilling. Basically, things start off at what I'll call the boot camp level. Gener8tor, which is a organization in the area that really works in that entrepreneur space, they've actually been running some cohorts through LinkedIn learning opportunities. So if you go into LinkedIn learning, there are actually 10 career pathways that have been identified, five of which are in that ITand digital career space. Gener8tor did run a cohort through LinkedIn learning, those individuals came out with their network admin certifications, and are now being placed with local companies. Anybody can go into LinkedIn learning and take those pathways for free on their own. You don't need to necessarily work with a Gener8tor to be able to do this. Add that to your resume and get that out to local employers when you're done. New Horizons. They're a local for profit training company. They offer boot camps in a number of IT related areas. In fact, they specialize in IT training. And those boot camps typically run about six to eight weeks during which you will gain the skills to take and, hopefully, pass industry certifications within the IT space. And then of course, the more traditional pathways include our two year technical colleges. They run a number of educational programs and everything from help desk to coding, cybersecurity, and even data analytics. And then of course, our UW System schools -- UW Oshkosh Green Bay, and then Lakeland University-- they all offer bachelor's in computer science. UW Oshkosh also offers information systems and interactive web management degrees through their College of Business. Both of the UW System schools also offer master's degree programs in data analytics, IT management, cybersecurity. And those are really good options. If you already have a bachelor's degree in another field and you're looking to skill over. They also do offer some certificate programs. These are not necessarily industry certifications, but they are something again, that you can layer on your existing educational level to help skill you over. Both the two and four year colleges, they offer credit for prior learning, which can be a way to reduce your time to degree. S o even though we talk about them as two and four year degree programs, it may not necessarily take you that long.

Kevin Virobik:

Are you aware of any local professional organizations that would allow a candidate who wanted to transition into a new career path, to be able to network with those who are already in the field so that they could have a better understanding about the new career path that they might want to pursue?

Kim Iversen:

Yes! Thhere are numerous. If you go out to the new digital Alliance website. So that's NEWdigitalalliance.org. Under our explore IT tab, we have a page called IT professionals. And on that page, we have a listing of professional networking groups in the region. So these are groups everything that focus from coding to business analysis to something that's a lot broader, but more gender specific with the Women in Technology or WITWisconsin group. And everything in between. People who are interested in exploring, learning more, even just getting their name out there and networking with others who might help them land a toe in the door, they can go out there use the links to find out when these different organizations are meeting up and join one of their meetings or two and get to know folks who are in the field you're looking to jump into.

Kevin Virobik:

Share your elevator pitch to somebody who is tech interested, but isn't sure that they should make the jump. Why is a career in tech in the N.E.W. North a great career path in 2021?

Kim Iversen:

First off is a high demand field. I know we often hear when companies are laying off and you hear about companies outsourcing IT. Even in those situations, those individuals who've been displaced by such activities are landing jobs pretty quickly within a new organization. They're not sitting idle for long. The jobs pay well. I mean, you're looking at start salaries $45,000. There's a huge variety in IT, I often liken IT to working in the medical field. You might work in the medical field, but you can be an X ray technologist, or you can be a neurosurgeon. And there's just a slew of jobs in between. It's the same with IT. Everything from Help Desk positions and coding, to project management and cybersecurity. And that's just four of many, many types of jobs. No two days are ever alike in IT. That is part of the fun of IT is that there's always something new to be doing to be learning and to be helping with. And IT really makes a difference for our companies. It makes a difference in our communities. And it's just a great career field all around to get into.

Kevin Virobik:

Kim, is it also true that tech is everywhere. So even though we look at Tech as an industry in and of itself, it has its fingers in all industries, because basically all companies today are using tech in some form or fashion?

Kim Iversen:

That is so correct. Yes. Before COVID hit, I had the opportunity to visit a food packaging company in the Manitowoc area. They had just roboticized several of their food packaging lines because they couldn't find people to do the packaging. So those individuals who were part of their incumbent workforce, all of a sudden had to gain technology skills. Because instead of directly doing the food packaging, now they're managing a team of robots --so they had to gain those skills. My middle daughter recently graduated with a degree in architecture from UW Milwaukee. One of the classes that she had to take, it was essentially a mash up of architecture and virtual reality. So it was all about how to design buildings in a virtual reality tool, so that customers could put on a VR goggles and do a virtual walkthrough of a building before you've ever put a shovel in the ground. And tools like that are being used by companies like Miron Construction to walk customers through before they break ground on an expensive build site. It doesn't matter what industry you're in, technology is there and everybody from line level workers to senior executives need to have technology skills today.

Kevin Virobik:

What else Would you like to share with our listeners about careers in tech or about the N.E.W. Digital Alliance?

Kim Iversen:

Kevin, honestly, I'd say if you're thinking about a career in technology, and you're not sure where to start, feel free to reach out to me and the N.E.W. Digital Alliance. I'm always happy to talk with individuals who are interested and to answer any questions. As well as if you're at the point where you've got a resume and you're trying to figure out how to tweak it so that you can show those skills and how they transfer over, I'm happy to work with you on that as well. Check out our website at NEWDigitalAlliance.org -- ton of information out there and we'd love to see you at some of the events that you'll find on our events page too.

Kevin Virobik:

I'm thrilled that you in the N.E.W Digital Alliance is such a great resource to be able to help those who are in-career, but who may be looking for a change, to be able to help guide them so that they can achieve their career goals.

Kim Iversen:

Thank you so much for the opportunity to be part of your podcast today, Kevin, really appreciate it.

Kevin Virobik:

Thanks Kim, h pe to see you again soon. Thanks for listening. To see what openings are currently available and more. Visit the Fox Valley Job Centers. Or check out JobCenterOfWisconsin.com. JCW is a free online portal that connects jobseekers with employment opportunities throughout Wisconsin. You can register to search for jobs based on keywords, location, or search for openings across different industries that match your specific skill set or experience. You can also use JCW to build your resume and find job fairs that will connect you with hiring employers in your area. Check out Job Center of Wisconsin.com and start your new career today.