Top tech talent wanted in the TriangleTop tech talent hard to come by in the Triangle?RALEIGH – Thousands of high tech and other jobs are going unfilled across the Triangle and North Carolina as unemployment continues to drop. And this challenge for employers is becoming more desperate for companies even as tech giants Apple and Amazon mull bringing as many as 60,000 engineering and other tech jobs paying six-figure salaries to the region.

Companies want to grow. They just can’t fill jobs.

In a new survey, staffing firm Robert Half Technology found that 63 percent of hiring managers in the Raleigh-Cary market want to expand their tech payrolls. But where’s the talent?

“The job vacancies has a lot to do with the demand and opportunities for companies to keep pace with newer technology,” explains Zane Sosna, senior vice president and branch manager at Robert Half Technology in Raleigh.

Demand is highest in areas such as cloud security. And 93 percent of IT leaders told Robert Half that they are having trouble with recruiting. Thus 86 percent are looking to find skilled IT professions and relocate them to the capital city area.

Perhaps the best measure of demand are the unemployment rates for database administrators (0.1 percent) and computer-information systems managers (0.9 percent), and software engineers, programmers, systems administrators as well as web developers all under 3 percent, according to Robert Half data.

Robert Half Technology

A snapshot of Raleigh jobs market from Robert Half Technology.

Exacerbating the problem is “newer tech” skill sets since achieving certifications and proficiency isn’t something to be gained overnight, Sosna adds.

“In Raleigh, the top tech jobs in demand are front end [software]developers, DevOps, automation engineers, and of course full-stack developers in the .Net and JavaScript fields,” she points out.

“A solid work history is important in securing these types of roles.”

The Triangle is a hot bed for emerging technologies such as the cloud, Internet of Things, analytics, financial technology and clean tech such as renewable energy. But the unemployment rate in Raleigh-Cary is down to a microscopic 3.2 percent with under 23,000 people in the workforce out of jobs, according to federal statistics for May. The jobless rate in Durham-Chapel Hill is also well under 4 percent, and the North Carolina unemployment rate is 4.3 percent.

“It’s work” to find talent

From multinationals to startups, one theme is common: Hiring.

“It’s work,” says Todd Olson, founder of startup Pendo who chose to build his company here rather than Silicon Valley.

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“We have a recruiting staff of four full-time people and, despite receiving thousands of applications every year, we are rarely “above” plan in terms of hiring. It’s also work to retain employees, but this is all part and parcel of running a strong business. You need to be able to recruit and retain employees.”

But Olson remains grateful he chose the Triangle.

“Honestly, it’s easier here than in the Bay Area or NYC or other cities, so I am thankful,” he says.

Yet statewide, there are more than 22,000 open information technology jobs, according to data compiled by the North Carolina Technology Association. That number continues to climb from just over 18,000 in December – an increase of more than 20 percent.

N.C. State economist Dr. Mike Walden doesn’t believe the job market remain red hot, however. In his most recent economic forecast published June 29, Walden wrote: “It appears the economy may be in a holding pattern now, waiting until several uncertainties become clearer. Among them: whether today’s trade disputes will evolve into a trade war or will be resolved, whether the stock market will establish a firm direction –either up or down, and if power in Washington will shift after the November elections.”

Job hopping grows

Regardless of what happens in November, employers are worried about meeting talent demand right now.

Making the hiring problem worse – and serving as a precursor of what companies will face if and when Apple and Amazon expand here – is the fact more tech workers are willing to shop themselves in seeking a better job.

“The tech hiring market is robust locally and tech professionals are now more willing than ever before to voluntarily change jobs with the hopes of gaining access to work with and learn new skillsets in the security, cloud [computing] and java script space,” Sosna explains.

“Also, there are more tech job options now and job hopping isn’t frowned upon as much as it once was.”

Some samples:

  • Raleigh-based Red Hat, for example, lists nearly 100 open jobs in the capital city.
  • Data analytics giant SAS, which calls Cary home, has scores of job openings.
  • And jobs website lists more than 22,000 positions that are available.

The Triangle is far from alone. Nationally, research firm ADP said Thursday that fewer jobs were created than expected in June at 177,000 – but for an interesting reason. Employers said they are having a tougher time finding skilled workers, according to The Associated Press. That news came after the number of job openings surpassed the number of people who are looking for work.

“There will be pain”

And executives fear the problem will worsen. Recent surveys from Duke University and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants both cited the difficulty of finding and retaining employees is a growing challenge for employers as they plan ahead for the next several months. Many want to add workers but say they can’t find qualified candidates.

One result is likely to be an increase in compensation and benefits that employers will have to dangle to lure new workers.

As Craig Stone, CEO of Hire Networks in the Triangle, recently said about Amazon and Apple possibly coming to town: “There will be pain” in the labor market.

The Triangle also continues to attract more companies. Wake County says it is discussing possible relocations and expansions that could add well mover 10,000 jobs with companies drawn by the region’s quality of life, workforce, education, lower taxes, and other attractions such as housing costs.

Especially drawn to the region are firms wanting fresh talent, Sosna points out, further exacerbating the tech talent shortage.

“A lot of companies searching for tech professionals have moved to the area because the diversity of industries is so attractive in Raleigh,” she explains.

“We have everything from higher education, healthcare,  to financial services, to local and state government, and high technology and software companies at your fingertips. Those business opportunities, coupled with the area’s quality of life, lower cost of living and proximity to a variety of terrains makes Raleigh very attractive to companies and job seekers alike.”