Despite Bad Tech Headlines, Tech Skills Still in Demand

The past has taught us that tech-related industries and advanced manufacturing will bounce back, and several trends indicate that the broad demand for qualified tech talent will continue to grow.

Mike Russo, President & CEO, National Institute for Innovation & Technology (NIIT)

April 26, 2023

3 Min Read
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Headlines out of the tech sector have been dispiriting recently. Almost daily, we are seeing news of massive layoffs at large tech companies that have grown to be a foundation of our economy.

Although the current outlook for job seekers in big tech seems negative, today’s environment presents a perfect time for candidates to explore a broader range of opportunities and focus on building tech skills that can translate into success in a wide range of industries.

Something We’ve Seen Before

Volatility is nothing new in the tech sector. The sector that produced the phrase “move fast and break things” is predicated on speed and innovation, but failure is also treated as acceptable and an expected part of doing business.

Today there are cyclical forces putting downward pressure on the industry, which makes the current situation look worse. Supply chain issues and the threat of recession are leading many companies to cut back on all kinds of expenditures from digital advertising to technology hardware. Moreover, we are coming out of the pandemic economy, which was a huge boon for the tech sector, so demand is now likely rightsizing to levels we can expect over the longer-term.

Still Plenty of Opportunity

However, job seekers should not be dissuaded by the current raft of negative coverage coming out of the tech sector. The past has taught us that tech-related industries and advanced manufacturing will bounce back, and a number of trends indicate that the broad demand for qualified tech talent will continue to grow.

The pandemic highlighted the uncomfortable truth that the US does not have an adequate supply of tech talent. Our manufacturing capacity of advanced technologies, such as semiconductors, has been slipping since the 1990s. Moreover, shortages emerged in everything from automobiles to home appliances as global supply chains shut down and our domestic capacity in advanced manufacturing could not keep up with demand.

The breadth of industries that require advanced skills in technology is also expanding. Opportunities are growing in areas such as biotechnology, clean energy, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, and advanced manufacturing of all types.

These two market forces of reshoring our domestic supply chain and an increasing need for tech workers from a broader range of industries indicate there will still be a healthy number of opportunities for the foreseeable future.

Foundational Skills

There is no ignoring the current volatility, but job seekers should not lose sight of the fact that the need for tech talent continues broadening to an expanding list of industries. Now is a good time to focus on building foundational skills that will both expand their expertise and translate across various industries. Math skills, an understanding of hydraulics, pneumatics, statistical process control, troubleshooting, problem-solving and the ability to work effectively in a team environment provide a strong foundation.

The good news is that the entry points for these well-paying careers in many cases do not require college degrees, making them accessible to a wider range of people.

Leveraging the Moment

Despite recent headlines, job seekers for tech roles have a tailwind behind them as more industries require these skills and the government engages to help grow our talent pipeline. I am encouraged by legislation such as last year’s Chips Act, in which the government made a meaningful commitment to the American technology sector.

Candidates who are either looking for a career change or exploring options after leaving school should keep advanced technology positions at the top of their list. Moreover, possessing these foundational skills reduces the risk of getting pigeon-holed with regard to one’s skillset and can provide a gateway to success in a broad array of careers involving tech and advanced manufacturing.

Tech industries will continue to offer dynamic opportunities across a variety of subsectors that will be essential in ensuring that the US remains a leading economy for the next generation.

About the Author(s)

Mike Russo

President & CEO, National Institute for Innovation & Technology (NIIT)

Prior to founding NIIT, Mr. Russo was the Vice President of Industry Advancement and Government Programs at SEMI, the industry association representing the global end-to-end electronics industry including designers, chemical and material producers, tool makers and semiconductor chip makers. In that role Mike was responsible for strategy development, programs and government partnerships intended to sustain and grow the semiconductor industry and address the priority issues faced by SEMI’s membership. Other roles at SEMI included Vice President of Global Industry Advocacy as well as Vice President of Talent Advocacy.

Mr. Russo spent nearly a decade leading the corporate Government Affairs office in the U.S. for Global Foundries, the nation’s largest contract semiconductor chip maker, overseeing government relations, regulatory affairs and strategic initiatives including developing the talent pipeline, increasing supply chain innovation and improving supply chain security.

Mr. Russo has also served as a private sector advisor to the U.S. government in the areas of manufacturing and industrial base policy and lead the private sector advisory group for the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institute (now Manufacturing USA) under the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP). Mike is a committee member of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Innovation Policy Forum and the Executive Committee Chairman and founding member of MForesight, the nation’s private sector advisory group on manufacturing.

Mr. Russo has also served as a senior staffer in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. With more than 3 decades experience in manufacturing, Mike has extensive experience in workforce and organizational development, supply chain innovation and security, and infrastructure development, and as the President of the Entregar Consulting Group, provided related solutions to clients and guidance for public-private partnerships.

Prior to his work in Congress, Mr. Russo was an Executive Officer for the nation’s oldest industrial union, was responsible for all operations in the Northeastern United States. An expert in organizational development and effectiveness, Mr. Russo has led initiatives in total workplace redesign and the development of innovative workplace safety cultures, helping to make U.S. manufacturers and businesses globally competitive.

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