Our country has more open tech jobs than it can fill.

That’s not a new storyline and certainly not a new problem. But recently, the North Carolina Technology Association quantified the extent of it.

What they found was stunning.

There were 27,608 open technology jobs in North Carolina in August. The most in-demand job is software developer, with 7,788 open positions. That’s an increase of 9.9 percent compared to the same time last year.

In addition to software developers, companies in North Carolina are clamoring for computer systems engineers and architects, computer systems analysts, computer user support specialists, and network and computer systems administrators, according to the report. Among those on the hunt for solid tech hires are some of the state’s largest employers. The struggle is real when it comes to finding the talent companies need for the work they’re trying to get done.

There’s good news in these numbers. For one, they indicate North Carolina is growing as a hub for technology and companies looking to become leaders in digital transformation. More tech jobs means there are more companies aggressively pursuing innovation, and innovation is good.

They also point to an imbalance between supply and demand — too many tech ideas and not enough tech talent to build them — which was one of the reasons we launched Dualboot Partners. Like all good technology entrepreneurs, we wanted to build something that would solve a problem. Turns out, we did.

But there’s a problem with all this opportunity: It’s only valuable if someone, somewhere can take advantage of it. And that’s where we continue to come up short.

The educational system in this country is not building the next generation of technology leaders. We hammer home the importance of STEM for young people in general, and yet it’s still considered a nice to have, not a must have.

That’s not the case in other parts of the world. Consider this: In 2016, China was home to 4.7 million recent STEM graduates, according to the World Economic Forum. India had 2.6 million.

The U.S.? 568,000.

As you might guess, the picture isn’t much better among younger students in the U.S. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently ranked countries around the world based on the math and science aptitude of high schoolers. Not only did the U.S. not make the top 10; we ranked #28.

There are efforts underway to change these alarming statistics. Last year, the White House told the Department of Education to start spending $200 million a year on grants that promote STEM education and “particularly computer science” — although it’s unclear exactly how that money will be put to use. Coding bootcamps have popped up across the country — notably our friends over at Tech Talent South — but many of those drawn to the programs are lured in by high salaries rather than a passion for the work.

And passion, so often, starts when we’re young.

How many of us can trace our tech roots to the video game we loved as a kid, to the piece of equipment we stripped down to parts just to see how it worked, to the science projects we concocted in our garage? And if our educational system was designed to nurture those STEM interests from a young age, imagine the possibilities.

But as we see time and again, nothing changes without a strong business case. We need to see what a problem costs before we set about designing a solution. So that’s another bit of good in the numbers from the NC Technology Association report: We can see the problem now — in hard numbers and missed opportunities.

And what gets measured, gets changed.

Todd BuelowTodd Buelow
Todd’s career is anchored at the intersection of entrepreneurship, people, and digital. Todd has over 20 years of experience managing digital products and serving as a catalyst for growth. Before founding Dualboot Partners, Todd was a founding member of Elogex, Bella Tunno, Cloud Logistics, and Castle Digital Partners. Todd is an investor in post-revenue startups and is active in the community. He serves on the boards of Speedway Children’s Charity, American Football without Barriers, Road Recovery, and Bounce Out the Stigma. Todd lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife Michelle and daughters Riley and Ella.