Five Qs: Major Flynn on the IT Industry in Detroit

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tTEKsystems, a provider of IT staffing solutions and services, reports there are only enough IT professionals to fill 36 percent of the open positions in metro Detroit. Major Flynn, director of business operations at TEKsystems in Detroit, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the staffing shortage and related trends.

t1. DDN: What’s the state of the IT industry in the Detroit?

tMF: We’ve seen a big (labor) shortage at a lot of our clients, actually for several years in the Detroit area. That can be attributed to a lot of things. One being the shortage of college graduates with computer science degrees compared to the amount of IT openings and needs at major companies — not only in Detroit but also across the U.S. Additionally, in the IT industry, a lot baby boomers are starting to go into retirement, opening a lot of (positions) for these companies to fill.

tRight now, what’s great about Detroit is that there’s such so much innovation going into the auto industry, so there are a lot of businesses looking for high-level talent. It’s becoming a hotbed for IT talent. In fact, some surveys have listed Detroit as one of the biggest growing IT areas in the last couple of quarters. Now, I just moved back from (Washington) D.C., which has been a top five market for several years in needing IT talent, so I wouldn’t say Detroit has consistently been at the top. But it’s becoming bigger and bigger.

t2. DDN: What are the key industries fueling the demand?

tMF: Obviously, the auto industry is big. We’ve also had a lot of success and have seen a lot of growth in the health care industry. Plus, with all of these hospitals trying to get up to speed with (the Affordable Health Care Act), they’ve had to do a lot with upgrading and implementing these systems. In Detroit, we also do a lot of work with energy companies, especially with DTE, Marathon, and ITC Holdings in Novi. And then we’ve seen a lot of growth downtown. There’s a lot of startup, dotcom-type companies. Google is up in Birmingham, and Amazon is setting up downtown, so it’s very interesting to see companies like that take off and really try to fuel the downtown area. 

t3. DDN: How are the needs changing for these companies?

tMF: In the past, IT workers have gone into companies and just done one thing — whether it be programming or (technical support), but now companies are looking for individuals that can interact with the business and do IT as well. (They want someone) who is able to interact with the business, understand exactly what the needs are, and go back to the IT group and describe those needs and fix the problems.

t4. DDN: What kind of impact does this shortage have on the region?

tMF: If companies can’t find the talent here, they’re going to look for companies that they can outsource their projects to. And when they do those kinds of things, it can impact the IT workforce here. Now, the majority (of these IT companies) would probably like to have more control over those projects, so they would like to have people here to do the projects. If they can find local talent, it usually saves them money, whereas if they have to outsource projects it can cost a lot of money. But if they can't get people locally, they will find (alternative) ways.

t5. DDN: What are the other major trends you are seeing?

tMF: A lot of these companies, especially in the Detroit area, use old systems and store data for a long time in those old systems. And now they (realize) that’s not going to work in the long run. So they’re upgrading all of these systems that hold tons of data, and that has become a huge hotbed for the IT market and IT workers.

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