If you see the news today you should know that that we are still in the midst of an unemployment crisis. Even though things have improved since the height of the recent recession, unemployment levels still are at an all time high. The areas that appear to be the hardest hit are places with high populations of minorities. North Carolina has seen unemployment rates as go as high as 15% and African American leaders have declared that we are in a state of emergency . I can honestly say that this high rate is not due to minorities not trying to find employment and people have even said that discrimination is now playing a part in minorities' ability to find employment. But whatever your opinions are about the reason, the fact is that the problem is real and is not going away even though many people try to ignore it. It is a part of our everyday lives.
On the other hand there is another job market that many of you may not follow as closely, the tech market. There is a significantly different phenomenon occurring there, a resource crunch. In this market companies can't find resources fast enough and offer lavish compensation packages to woo candidates to jump ship from one prominent internet company to another. If you ask anyone is this market they will tell you it's a sellers market if you have tech skills. If you ask anyone hiring in this market their immediate response would be " Show us the person with the skills and we have a job for them!" So you may ask why I mention this two markets together. Well, there are several reasons:
- Are they really looking everywhere? I recently met Tiffani Bell, who was a participant in the NewME Accelerator, a program that place African American internet company founders in Silicon Valley to learn from the internet's best and brightest and attempt to bridge the race divide in the technology start-up world. This program will actually be profiled by CNN's "Black in America" series in November. Tiffani is a technical founder who is a fluent coder in several languages who would be a great addition to any internet company. But Tiffani lives in North Carolina, far away from where these companies typically recruit. So the first question is if the crunch is so severe, why not widen the search outside your normal patterns?
- Why not create a workforce? While I understand some heavy technical positions require unique expertise there are many others that people can do with a decent amount of training and opportunity. So my other question is why don't some of the tech giants who are in a crunch set up shop in places like North Carolina and train some of the thousands of people there in the skills they are looking for? It would actually end up being cheaper for the company, they would acquire loyal employees and continue to grow their business.
- African Americans, there is an opportunity here: While I do believe there are things these companies can do to extend the opportunities, I also have to push us to seize the opportunities ourselves. It is easier today to get up to speed in technology development today than it's ever been. And there are people that look like you making strides in the tech world. And they like me are willing to point you in the right direction but you have to take the first step and be willing to learn what's required.
Here's to hoping all three of these things change for the better soon.