The war for talent is white hot, and nowhere is the battle fiercer than in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. With baby boomers retiring, younger generations showing falling levels of knowledge and skills, and technological innovation and adoption speeding up, we have a perfect storm for the shortage of tech talent. Particularly in the US, the limited availability and restrictiveness of the visa program for experienced professionals is doing little to alleviate short-term pain. A recent study by management consultancy Korn Ferry found that the US could lose out on $162 billion worth of revenues annually unless it finds more high-tech workers.
Not only is talent scarce, but it is also mobile and unevenly distributed across countries and regions. A location’s size, population, quality of life, and existing industry clusters impact the availability and quality of talent there. That unique combination of characteristics attractive to technical talent is essential, particularly when it comes to research and development (R&D). And the local talent, or at least the ability to recruit it, is essential to recruiting R&D projects.
While some locations, like Austin, Texas, and the renowned Research Triangle Park of North Carolina, can continue to build on existing clusters and university ties to grow their R&D footprint, other locations are getting creative. Virginia, spurred by the Amazon HQ2 search that it ultimately won, is investing more than $2 billion in its Tech Talent Investment Program to expand the state’s tech talent pipeline, doubling the number of graduates per year in computer science and engineering through educational offerings, internship programs and more.
Other states and communities are offering cash and other incentives to digital and tech nomads. Known for its spectacular beauty and outdoor activities, West Virginia’s Ascend program offers up to $12,000 cash and a free year of outdoor recreation (including outdoor gear rentals), access to free co-working spaces, and professional and social development opportunities to remote workers relocating to West Virginia.
Whatever tactics a community uses to beef up its tech talent pipeline, to be competitive for tech-heavy R&D projects, a comprehensive strategy is essential to make up for shortages caused by both reduced supply and increasing demand for technical talent.
Written by Didi Caldwell, President and Founding Principal, Global Location Strategies
This article first appeared in the June/July 2023 print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here.