First Friday – finding and supporting tech employment on Cape Cod

Are there tech careers on Cape Cod? That’s a question Cape Cod Regional Technical High School’s Information Technologies teacher, Marc Rocque, is finding an answer to.

As an educator for new technology, he knows he needs to become an expert on careers on the Cape. In researching the Cape’s offerings, he discovered that there is not a central list of tech companies, and he is hoping we can together build a database. He has started a list which he shared at the meeting, divided by Towns and Counties, Tech Companies, Large Organizations, Non-profits, and Chambers of Commerce. Each entry includes a link to the company or entity’s website, and other information pertinent to each type of organization.

Marc discovered that tech jobs largely fall in four categories: town and government offices, large employers with their own IT departments, non-profit organizations, and the rest of us. In town and government offices he discovered that there can be several technology positions, depending on the town.  Large employers with their own IT departments include Cape Cod Healthcare, where an estimated 120 people with a wide range of expertise – from security to technicians – work in IT.

Marc found about 70 companies that focus on tech, providing various levels of services, including web design, web development, and professional services. Many of these companies are one man operations (a few of the one man operations were in attendance). We also have myriad non-profit organizations on the Cape, including Cape Light Compact, Housing Assistance Corporation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and many others.

Finally, there’s the rest of us. Many small businesses don’t require a full-time IT person, but do need help.

Attendees discussed the difficulty of hiring IT on the Cape. Employees are hired from off Cape, but there are not enough large technology opportunities to draw many candidates. Hiring locally can also be difficult because applicants don’t always have the skill set.

The upshot of the meeting was that there are education opportunities to provide students with the skill sets they need for internships and jobs on the Cape. At Cape Cod Tech they offer a tech summer camp. Training at the Tech starts early, and kids coming out of a tech program there are qualified for job right away.

The group had more ideas on how to help people looking for work gain the skills they need. Cape Cod Community College has a networking program, and the CC STEM Network is housed at the college. When technical students are looking at internships, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a tech position for them to get something out of an internship. Employers at the meeting underscored the importance of face-to-face skills, which students may not have learned in tech classes. As we know, often the issue is with the user, so people skills are equally important.

Attendees agreed that taking on an intern can feel difficult and suggested that the schools develop a multiple-tiered internship, with tech and customer service. Hiring someone who is unqualified makes the job harder for the company.

Career Opportunities  funds internships and offers free on the job training for people unemployed or recently out of school. They work with job-seekers to develop the skills they need, as well as transfer skills to make them more marketable. Clients include people who have moved back to the Cape after working off Cape, and employees who were laid off and can’t find work in their field. There are many ways they can help people find work.

Some of the other educational opportunities Marc brought up included courses offered on the Cape by Bridgewater State University and Mass Maritime Academy, and online degrees from all the major Massachusetts schools.

There is also a Cape & Islands Regional Workforce Blueprint available online.

Marc looked into the cost of living on the Cape, and his findings weren’t pretty (or surprising). He used the Glass Door site to find average entry level salaries in IT – PC and network support, web development, web designers, and application developers. He then applied the formula landlords use to establish the income level needed to afford the rent (annual salary, divided by 40). Marc found that all the rentals in the range an entry-level tech employee could afford, according to Zillow, were off Cape. On Stats Cape Cod – a website put together by Cape Cod Commission that provides statistics by town – the average weekly wages by town are under $1,000.

The group discussed how technology is moving away from the computer model and into the Internet of Things. Car dealerships now have technical sales people. Listening to the problem, and giving a clear and to the point answer is a skill.

There is a service at Cape Cod Tech where kids do tech support – a service attendees felt more people should know about. CCCC is coordinating STEM week in October. They are talking about recreating a job shadowing program, which there was interest in.

The big take away was that we can all work together to make this happen – through training students and prospective employees, and compiling resources for finding technical companies, etc.

And remember, if you have tech jobs you need to fill, you may post it here on our website.

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