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Linking Workforce Development, Education & Economic Development In Armstrong, Butler & Indiana Counties

Information Technology

Information technology and communication services employment is among the smallest of the statewide clusters but high wages indicate significance to the Pennsylvania economy. Information technology has been identified as a key local industry cluster. According to the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, there are 219 information technology and communication services employers within the local area. There are 3,006 employees within the information technology and communication services industry which counts as 2.26% of our local employment. The industry is showing growth in our region with 222 additional jobs being shown between 2007 and 2008. The Location Quotient (LQ) for the local area is .40 with specific areas such telecommunications, surveying and mapping services, and specialized design services having higher LQs.

It is important to determine long-term strategies to maintain, strengthen, and expand the competitive advantage of the information technology and communication services industry. Local data shows that in Information Technology, the most important occupational groups are Information Technology/Math Occupations, Clerical Occupations, and Management Occupations. The abilities of oral comprehension, oral expression, and written comprehension are needed for these careers. Administration and management are important knowledge areas. Several skills including active listening, critical thinking, judgment and decision making, problem identification, reading comprehension, and speaking are needed for information technology occupations.

Two years ago, the consortium decided to focus on occupational analysis since technology occupations cross industry sectors. In addition, the consortium looked at the tri-county region as well as southwestern PA. As such, the consortium contracted with Catalyst Connection to do technology skills analysis. Specifically, Catalyst Connection’s analyses showed IT skill needs as identified by employers in job postings. The report showed that the top IT skills that companies seek include the following: SQL, Visio, ASP, Java, .Net, Oracle, GUI, HTML, Unix, and C#. The Tri-County High Priority Occupation Lists also illustrates the needs for various information and communication services occupations now and projected through 2014. Increases are shown for computer software engineers of 24%, for computer support specialists of 25.6%, and for network systems and data communications analysts of 50%.

As of June 2009, Tri-County’s civilian labor force totaled 180,600, which includes 166,000 employed and 14,600 unemployed. While the civilian labor force grew by 2,600 since last year, unemployment has gone up dramatically by 5,600 individuals. Despite the economic downturn, a survey of local businesses conducted by TCWIB in June 2009 indicated that computer skills were an important quality of hiring a new employee now and when the economy recovers. According to the PA Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, the total state population is expected to increase 1.3 percent between the years 2000 to 2010. Pennsylvania ranks second only to Florida in number of citizens age 65 and over, and the largest statewide increases are projected to occur in the 55-59 and 60-64 age groups. Conversely, the number of Pennsylvanians aged 30-44 is expected to decline. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that between 1977 and 2007, employment of workers 65 and over increased 101 percent, compared to a much smaller increase of 59 percent for total employment (16 and over). With fewer workers in this prime working age group and with a large number of expected retirements, the focus will be on preventing a labor shortage in the future and retaining experienced employees. It is thought that by 2018, labor force entrants from following generations may be insufficient to replace workers as they retire. Since 2002, the civilian labor force has grown approximately 5%. This is because Butler County is experiencing growth well above the state level (14.5%), due primarily to migration from Allegheny County to the Cranberry Township area. The local area is also competing with neighboring counties for technology workers because of the large technology industry located in Pittsburgh.

Informal verbal feedback from IT companies indicates that the local industry struggles with several challenges that include difficulty in finding qualified workers who can truly accomplish job tasks and convincing people that technology exists outside of the metropolitan area. Also, employees often do not have as much knowledge as is needed for the job. For example, they may lack creativity or skills in management, human resources, business structure, and accounting. In addition, companies struggle with competition from “do-it-yourself” programs and continual advancements in new technology. This means there is a constant need for new equipment and updating skills. Businesses try to meet these challenges by always staying on the leading edge of new technology and with constant skill upgrades. This data indicates the continued need to address technology workforce development needs. Therefore, local employers believe it is crucial to continue the work of the local industry partnership with recruitment and retention strategies.

The Tri-County Technology Consortium formed in May 2006. The core group of employers and resource partners came together with the mission to strengthen regional businesses engaged in the production and dissemination of information and those that support these services. Goals include the following topics: identifying actions to strengthen information technology and communication services in the tri-county region, providing a common voice to address the needs of the industry, supporting members through a common network, supporting other clusters in our area of expertise, attracting other industry to the region by providing a solid base of IT and Communication Service support, working with regional schools, organizations, and government to give mutual support, and notifying regional educational facilities on the need to support our industries. The group’s vision is to be an interactive information and service provider in the three counties by playing the important role of bridging information and training needs of established and emerging companies.