Lisa Katz| Crain’s Detroit Blog

Across the state of Michigan, from 2013 to 2014, there were more than 86,700 job postings for information-technology related positions. Of these, 65 percent were in Southeast Michigan with the plurality based in the city of Detroit.

Demand for IT occupations has been growing fast and steady since 2007, with demand almost tripling in the last seven years. IT jobs are coming from a cross-section of industries, including automotive, finance, retail, core IT and other sectors.


The challenge for the region, however, is that it has not been a traditional hub of IT activity. Places like Silicon Valley; Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and Charlotte, N.C., find that 5 percent to 6 percent of their workforce is employed in IT occupations. Here, the rate is less than 3 percent, and a large number of these workers are older: 38 percent of regional IT professionals are 45 years or older, with about 20 percent in the 55 and older range. Some companies find that large proportions of their IT talent pool are at or very near retirement.

That is OK — actual demand in those other big IT communities is higher than it is here — for now. But if the region does not pick up the pace on growing the talent pool, there could be some major competitiveness challenges down the road.

So how is the growth of our future IT talent base? There is substantial room for improvement. Last year, despite unprecedented job demand, roughly 5,000 students graduated from IT-related credentialing programs, whether a graduate-, bachelor- or associate-level degree or certificate. Kudos to those job seekers, who face a labor market where the ration of job postings to qualified graduates is 17:1. For employers themselves, these numbers are not such great news: They struggle to find the talent they need for success.

Because Detroit is a bootstrapping community, a core group of Detroit IT employers and community partners has decided to take matters into their own hands, forming a partnership called ExperienceIT. The purpose is to help grow the number of regional workers with needed IT skills. This week, the partnership  launched its new effort, reimagined and redesigned after two years of previous experience under the brand IT in the D. More than 40 top-notch candidates representing a pure cross-section of the regional community will spend eight weeks learning how to code, work in teams, tackle real-world projects and present themselves as rapidly deployable company resources.

While ExperienceIT will not single-handedly solve the region’s need for IT workers, a desired outcome is a replicable model that demonstrates how to successfully screen candidates for IT aptitude and professional attitude, while giving them skills and experience to hit the ground running. This week’s program launch was complete with palpable energy from employers and students, both sides eager to meet the perfect storm of IT talent need head-on. The approach is “so Detroit” and will continue to set the community apart as a top-destination IT hub for years to come.

The ExperienceIT partnership includes Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE Energy Co., Fathead LLC, GalaxE Solutions Inc., Marketing Associates LLC, Quicken Loans Inc. and Title Source Inc. Talent partners focused on training and placement include Detroit Employment Solutions Corp.Grand Circus Detroit LLC and the Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN).

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