Detroit SkylineDetroit companies need IT workers, and if they can’t find them then they’re going to create them. A consortium of local companies and colleges have created a two-month program designed to give students and IT pros more experience to advance their technology careers. The IT in the D program, supported by The Michigan Economic Development Corp., currently has 32 students from participating colleges working with about 35 trainers from companies in the program. The students meet twice a week in two-hour classes at the companies' offices until the end of August. Consortium members include Quicken Loans, Compuware, GalaxE. Solutions (which created a well-known “Outsource to Detroit” program), Fathead LLC, Marketing Associates, as well as Wayne State University, Wayne County Community College District and Washtenaw Community College.

Real Need, Real Job Openings

The need is real. Quicken Loans says it wants to hire 150 IT experts, and an IDC study says that by 2015 there could be 12,500 new IT jobs in the metro area. What kinds of jobs? Michigan's Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives has completed a study of the "Hot 50" jobs in Michigan and six are IT-related:
  • Computer Systems Analysts (#8)
  • Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts (#10)
  • Computer Software Engineers, Applications (#20)
  • Network Systems Administrators (#32)
  • Computer Software Engineers, Systems Software (#29)
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers (#33)

A Idea In the Making

While the initial focus is on current students, the program will grow to embrace tech workers of all ages and experience levels. The program aims to retrain them into growth areas, such as mobile and Web development. The idea for the program developed because many people were thinking the same thing at the same time, says Amy Cell, senior vice president for talent enhancement Michigan Economic Development Corp. "We were all struggling with where to get a pipeline of talent from," she says. "We convened a meeting in November 2011 with the employers, the colleges, and various tech organizations from around the state, about 40 people in all. There was even someone from the White House." Once the consortium created the framework for the program, the hiring companies came up with the name IT in the D. Michigan, meanwhile, plans to merge its own similar effort called Shifting Code into the new program.

Pebble in a Pond?

The IT in the D concept is currently spreading to other Michigan cities, and while Cell hasn’t heard of other tech organizations creating such a program in other states, it may happen in the near future. Detroit’s plan could be replicated by any city with at least a few tech companies and community colleges or universities willing to sync up with local economic development departments or technology boosters. On the West Coast, for example, Seattle’s Office of Economic Development tracks the progress of 850 local technology companies and works with Washington’s Technology Alliance and the Washington Technology Center to keep lines of communication open with government, business and higher education. It wouldn't be a stretch for these organizations to come together to create a similar program, perhaps call it IT in the S. What’s going on in your city?

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Detroit firms, colleges create program to promote IT careers [The Detroit News]