By the HuffPost Labs team: Matthew Conlen, Brandon Diamond, Andrew Sass and Conor White-Sullivan
The solution to the jobs crisis is much simpler than most think. Politicians in Washington can argue until they are red, white and blue in the face about how to create jobs. But there is one, often overlooked, sector of the economy that spends every day waking up and trying to find better, faster, more effective ways to move our country and world into the future. The hackers.
No, we aren't talking about the criminals you hear about in the news. Not the ones trying to break into the CIA database or steal your grandmother's credit card number. We're talking about the designers, developers and makers who are sweating out the products that we will all be taking for granted in five years.
We all hear about the Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, but the technology community (and by extension the hacker community) is much larger, and not just the place for myths and legends of towering genius. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there were 913,100engineering jobs and 279,200 graphic design positions in 2010. That may seem to be a small portion of the labor force, but when you recognize that the Internet's contribution to GDP is greater than Energy, Mining, and Agriculture, you realize the importance of those jobs.
When you get to know us, you realize that hackers often have more in common with musicians or artists than we do with white-collar workers. True hackers aren't just trying to get rich quick; they hack for the thrill of creating something new and building something beautiful and useful.
What is most important though is that this community is growing. The U.S. BLS estimates that software engineering jobs will grow 30 percent over the next ten years, and design jobs will grow 13 percent. But for those who believe that software is eating the world, and will continue to take over new industries, those estimates seem conservative. And employers would agree that they would hire more engineers if our education system could provide them.
In fact, this is one of the few sectors of the U.S. economy with negative unemployment. In New York at least, there are more jobs than there are qualified applicants in software engineering and web design.
Our education system is struggling to meet this challenge and prepare our children for this opportunity. But the tech community is not waiting for someone else to provide the answer. As much as we enjoy the myth of the lone founder, hackers often build best when we build together, and a strong community can help a developer hone their skills much faster than they could ever hope to alone. New members to the community (both those just starting their career or those new to a city) need to find guides. And experienced developers are always on the lookout for the bright upstart.What hackers need is a way to find each other and a place to connect -- in a space without non-technical recruiters trying to sell them on jobs they don't want.
In 2009, Brandon Diamond, now a co-founder of HuffPost Labs, left his job at Clickable to make his way in the start-up world as a solitary founder. As he worked tirelessly on building his own company, he realized how important it is to have a community of other builders. He saw the need for professional support, of course, but also for the camaraderie necessary for dealing with the day-to-day stresses of trying to build something new. (Many don't realize this, but until a start-up starts to gain traction and can raise money, the founders are functionally unemployed). His start-up never took off, but the community he built has blossomed into an email list of thousands of developers in New York.
Yesterday, at the New York Tech Meetup, the HuffPost Labs team released the first version of HackerUnion.org our way of giving back to the tech community in New York and around the world. The community is accessible only to those who can demonstrate that they are developers and designers who have something to add to the broader group. Every member is partnered with a guide to help them interact most effectively with the larger hacker community. New York is the first community, but the platform is open to anyone from around the world who wants to open a chapter in their city or region.
Innovation is like a gas, it becomes more powerful the more it is compressed. Our hope is that by making it easier for the builders in NYC to meet one another and exchange ideas, we can help this community grow even faster and accomplish even more for bringing our city, our country and our world into the future. We hope you get a chance to apply to HackerUnion.org, and look forward to seeing the things you build.