Lake views from the Milwaukee innovation labs

James Hischke

Director – Tech Advancement and Outreach

Aug. 01, 20183 min read

Topics: tech advancement.

Behind the Tech Talent Impact Study: Why this Work is Unique and Important

The 2018 Tech Talent Economic Impact Study marks the first time local companies set out to fully understand the impact of tech talent and tech-dependent industries in southeast Wisconsin. The study led to some eye-opening results, thanks in part to its unique approach.

This study took a broader, more modern view of “tech talent.” One of the most interesting aspects of this study is that it looked beyond the traditional criteria for assessing the number of technology-related jobs in our region. These days, it's not just software developers or programmers at IT consultancies who hold “technology” positions. What about the business/financial analyst in a large corporation who, today, is almost exclusively dealing with data and analytics? That position has grown considerably over the last 10 years in the Milwaukee region – and it's definitely a job that would get missed in a study that only examines jobs in the traditional IT sector.

When taking this broader perspective, the study found nearly 76,000 workers are employed in technology-related occupations across southeast Wisconsin. This includes select occupations across information technology, engineering, healthcare, and business and financial positions. That's nearly triple what had been previously reported for Greater Milwaukee. Collectively, tech and tech talent-dependent industries contributed $27.6B in regional economic impact; nearly one-quarter of the total regional economic output.

What also makes this unique is that the study was commissioned by job creators. Typically, studies like these are conducted by economic development organizations or local or state governments. Unfortunately, that can sometimes mean businesses don't have direct involvement and may not feel compelled to take action based on the research. This study was commissioned by the very companies that need tech talent to succeed, including Northwestern Mutual. The fact that this effort was supported by 20 job creators in the region tells us that industry leaders understand Milwaukee's success is dependent on the region’s ability to build, attract, and retain talent. As job creators, we are stepping up and taking an active role.

We will turn insights into action. Commissioning the study was the first step. Next up: doing something with the insights we've gained. For starters, we'll be diving a little deeper into what the supply and demand really looks like so we can answer the next set of fundamental questions. With the strong university and college system we have here, should our priority be to retain tech grads within the region? Should we focus on recruiting from outside the region – or even outside the Midwest? Or should we focus on building up tech talent from under-served communities or under-employed people who are already living here? Or a combination of strategies? From there, we'll start mapping out a game plan.

Bottom line: the study results won't mean anything unless we take some action. Fortunately, the results are compelling – tech is more important to our economy than anybody thought! This study will only add to the momentum that's already building to transform southeast Wisconsin into a national hub for technology, research, business and talent development. Let’s make it happen!