The state of Connecticut continues to devote resources to supporting entrepreneurs and young businesses across the state. But connecting those businesses with the right talent remains an ongoing challenge. It is one of the primary missions of the Connecticut Technology Council, led by Bruce Carlson, who shared some of his thoughts on the subject…
Tell us about CTC and the organization’s mission and goals.
We’re an association with about 300 members and growing. One of our key efforts is the development of programs designed primarily to help our members find talent as they grow in the state. The challenges of finding tech talent have become a critical piece and a primary concern among our members. Essentially, we are working to create connections between available talent and available jobs.
What do you see as the chief obstacles and challenges in drawing talent these days?
The chief obstacle is lack of awareness about where pools of talent are in the state. There is a lot of talent here. But many companies have fished in certain pools and haven’t looked broadly. So they get discouraged when they aren’t able to find talent where it’s ordinarily been. Ultimately, we also need to be able to import talent that we need, which is why the work that’s being done on the Innovation Places program becomes really important.
How do CTC and CTNext work together to overcome the challenges you’ve identified?
We work together on a number of different initiatives. The specific thing that we are funded for is the Skills Challenge program, which started with a Coding Challenge. We went to 18 different campuses in the state and invited students to take a coding exam. That allowed us to identify the 50 top college student coders from around the state, whom we then invited to a one-day “Hack-a-thon” at Yale University. Sponsors were invited to attend and run a mini job fair on site. As part of the sign-up process, students provided their electronic resumes, LinkedIn profiles and all the things that an employer would want and need. The first Challenge was such a success that this past fall, we ran another Coding Challenge and a second one for engineering. Ultimately, these events created opportunities for employers across the state to vet highly qualified candidates for employment consideration. It was a fun way to give the students the opportunity to win some money and to let employers see where the pools of talent are all over the state.
What role do you see CTNext playing in this effort to make talent more available and more known to Connecticut companies looking to grow?
One of the clear areas of responsibility for CTNext is to provide networking, entrepreneurial and startup activities, and they do a great job with that, whether it’s through funding the accelerators or finding and connecting companies to EIRs. If we’re lucky enough to get companies started, we need to continue to be able to support them as they grow. I believe, very strongly, that the talent issue is going to make or break growth in these tech companies in Connecticut. CTNext has a significant role to play in not only being able to get these companies off the ground, but then also to help them grow through programs like ours, which are allowing them to make easy connections to available talent.