How educators and employers will need to get creative and partner to meet the increasing demand for developer talent.

Fattmerchant office
Fattmerchant has grown its workforce by 350 percent over the last three years, one of the fastest growing fintech companies in Orlando.

The U.S. labor market looks significantly different today than it did three decades ago because it has been dramatically reshaped by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At the heart of this technological revolution is a crucial need for software development. The future labor market will continue to evolve rapidly due to the digitization of everything from communication to retail to transportation. As one of the fastest growing occupations, software developers are in extreme demand in today’s economy.

Expanding the Talent Pipeline

The widespread adoption of blockchain, app-based services and artificial intelligence, not to mention the rise of Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), usage has fueled the expansion of the software development occupation. A large reason for the significant increase in demand for software developers is that they are now employed in a wide range of industries beyond the tech sector including professional and business services, manufacturing and finance.

This global trend applies to Orlando’s economy as well. With so many companies looking to expand their business by developing owned technologies like apps, demand for tech workers has skyrocketed. Throughout the Orlando region, software developers is one occupation that has been marked as both fastest growing and most in-demand. While the national unemployment rate has hovered around 3.3 percent all year, only about 1.5 percent of Orlando’s software developers are looking for a job. Over the last several years, software developer employment in Orlando has grown dramatically at a rate of 3.5 percent.

“As a fast-growing tech company doubling our workforce over the next year, access to talent is crucial – especially software developers. That has fueled Fattmerchant’s growth in Orlando. We can tap into a large tech talent pool and have a close relationship with one of the largest universities in the nation (UCF), without the competition in high-cost areas like Silicon Valley.”

Suneera Madhani, CEO of Fattmerchant

Filling these positions is a challenge across the country as the talent pool remains tight. Labor markets respond to these stresses in multiple ways and the job market often dictates popular areas of study in higher education. At the University of Central Florida, Computer Science B.S. enrollment has almost doubled since 2012, while total undergraduate enrollment has grown 14 percent. In 2012, 2,341 baccalaureate degrees in computer science were conferred within a 100-mile radius of Orlando. Just five years later, 4,575 degrees were awarded – a 95 percent increase and higher growth than many other major metros in the Southeast including Miami (78 percent) and Charlotte (70 percent). See figure 1 below for how Orlando compares to other major metros.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of software developer positions is expected to increase by 24 percent by 2026, with a median pay of $105,000 per year.

Figure 1: Software Development Degrees Awarded in 100-Mile Radius, 2012-18

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Source: JobsEQ, 2019

Within 100 miles of Orlando, an assortment of programs exists to enhance the software development talent pool including Valencia College’s new Computing Technology and Software Development Bachelor of Applied Science. Another program supplying a pipeline of future software developers is the University of South Florida’s Computer Science and Engineering department, which is ranked 44 in Computer Engineering in the top 50 U.S. public universities according to U.S. News and World Report. See figure two below for which Florida universities are graduating students in software development.

Figure 2: Top Universities Awarding Software Development Degrees in 100-Miles of Orlando, 2018

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Source: JobsEQ, 2019

When Demand Outpaces Supply, Companies Get Creative

As Orlando’s higher educational institutions expand offerings to meet industry demand, overall educational attainment is on the rise, suggesting broad-based prosperity™ throughout the Orlando region is on the rise, according to the Orlando Prosperity Scorecard. However, the tightening talent pool and rising recruitment challenge are prompting employers to look for talent beyond recent graduates.

Today, most employers require increasingly specialized and diversified skill sets, and a high level of experience, which necessitates years to acquire. Stripe, partnered with Harris Poll, surveyed thousands of C-Suite executives and found in its report “The Developer Coefficient” that bad code costs companies $85 billion annually due to lack of efficiency and experience. Figure three below demonstrates that while the number of students in Orlando graduating with associates or bachelor’s in software development has risen over the last four years, the number of graduate and doctorate students has remained stagnant, one signal that there may be a shortage in the experienced talent companies require.

Figure 3: Software Development Awards by Type in 100-Mile Radius of Orlando, 2019

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Source: JobsEQ, 2019

Some companies have started creating internal training programs to address this shortage of talent. One example is Amazon’s training program, which is an intensive, month-long training and leadership program prior to hire that Amazon offers in its fulfillment centers across the globe, including at its new 850,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Orlando. Amazon prepays 95 percent of tuition for employees at fulfillment centers to learn in-demand fields. Another example is AT&T’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science degree, in partnership with Udacity, which provides self-paced, fast-track technical credentials called “Nanodegrees” across web and mobile development, data analytics and tech entrepreneurship.

A Peek into the Future

As technology advances and employers demand a more diversified skill sets, students and current workers need to be prepared for a mindset shift toward lifelong learning. The technical skills learned in pursuit of a four-year degree may not stay relevant very long after graduation.

A report released by Burning Glass Technologies titled The Hybrid Job Economy highlights that “jobs are becoming more hybrid, more complex and demand important new sets of skills.” These skill sets include big data and analytics, the intersection of design and development and emerging digital technologies, all areas where software development can be applied. The report’s analysis of almost one billion job postings found that one in eight postings is now highly hybridized and hybrid roles are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs overall during the next decade. The report notes that “because hybrid roles tend to be more sophisticated and more specialized, there aren’t many obvious entry-level opportunities in these occupations.” This poses an even greater challenge for educational institutions preparing tomorrow’s workforce for roles that don’t yet exist.

Another potential solution to the talent shortage is the use of “un-degreed” certificates targeted toward non-traditional students. Similar to AT&T’s “nanodegree” offered by Udacity, this fast, lean form of education follows a lifelong learning model that allows workers to quickly acquire the technical skills they need as jobs are hybridized and rapidly evolve and adapt.

The density of college students in the Orlando region is one of several advantages the region has over competitive in the arena of preparing students for the workforce of tomorrow. The second and more important advantage is Orlando’s higher education institutions already work closely with local industry to meet talent demand. For example, Lockheed Martin works with the University of Central Florida and Valencia College to expand its talent pipeline, while Seminole State College partners with CareerSource Central Florida to implement a local apprenticeship program. This competency in collaboration will be key in any educational ecosystem looking to expand offerings beyond the traditional four-year degree and prepare students for the jobs of the future. 

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