Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Business

Internship fair marks good start to build tech talent pool

Two dozen area companies will gather today to offer some of the most coveted opportunities for young people (or retrained older adults) trying to break into the technology job market: internships. And most of them pay.

A four-hour internship fair will be held on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida, but it's open to anyone with a technology background. It's sponsored by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, the advocacy group that's just taken the lead in a new regional effort to increase both the number and caliber of the technology workforce.

Getting young people involved in real world work at area companies is a key part of that effort. Hence the intern fair. If it's successful, look for more participating companies in coming months.

One firm attending is Tampa's Haneke Design, which provides mobile applications for businesses. Jody Haneke, president, says he wants to elevate the tech talent coming out of local schools.

"I can honestly say that there is a gap when it comes to skills on the mobile app development side of things," he says. Haneke only offers paid internships because, he says, "we expect folks to truly work and contribute."

Good chances to advance exist outside the tech giants, insists Chase Stockton, CEO of Clearwater's Panther International, which specializes in Web development for transportation clients. "Many of today's IT students looking at internships are entranced by only the large firms like Google and miss the potential opportunities of a small business internship," he says.

On Thursday, a Tampa Bay coalition of economic development organizations, tech groups and businesses issued a study that calls for aggressive steps to upgrade the regional technology work force. A bigger commitment to internships ranked high among the recommendations. Also critical is better coordination between businesses seeking specific tech talent and the universities, community colleges and public schools that try to motivate tech talent and teach relevant skills.

Pushing those recommendations falls to the Tampa Bay Technology Forum. CEO Heather Kenyon sees her group as a conduit to identify real world needs for tech skills while increasing the supply.

Last week, tech recruiter Fritz Eichelberger held one of his "Pure and Shameless" socials at Tampa's Blue Martini that drew 200 techies.

Filling tech jobs gets easier if firms pay more, he argues. But the buzz at his networking social did touch, he says, on the "inability to find enough IT talent at firms of all levels."

Today's internship fair is a fresh start to fix that shortage and give young talent reasons to stay right here.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

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