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You were hired last month as the first employee to lead Springfield Tech Council. Why were you interested in this position, and what is your background?
I’m of course interested in the nonprofit field and just always been in kind of a helping type of role. The bulk of my background is Drury University. I was the director of career planning and development. There, I interacted with students and alumni of all majors where we helped them decide what they wanted to do with their lives and then, of course, secure the positions, internships and professional-level roles. (I’m) very invested in the professional development of students and alumni, so that is a driving factor for why I do the work I do. Interviewing, networking, working on their branding are a real natural fit for some of the things that we’re doing with the council to help just really elevate the professionals that are in these industries.
STC launched in June 2021, merging The Association of IT Professionals – Ozarks Chapter and The Mid America Technology Alliance. What is the mission of the organization, and what are your goals?
Springfield Tech Council exists to unify and amplify the professional tech community in the Ozarks. That can also mean workforce development, programming to help professionals stay current, stay informed, connect with each other, and then political advocacy is another angle that the council is interested in. And then just really helping the community recognize the talent that we have here and helping retain talent also in the Springfield area. Working with students, that’s another obviously key interest area with my background – connecting with the colleges and universities in the area to help them stay in the Springfield area and see what we have to offer and what types of positions there are for them in the fields of tech. Also, awards and recognition. We’re working on EIT, which is Excellence in Technology. Those awards are slated for November. That will be a great thing to help recognize and really elevate all the great work that’s happening in the community. And then just the networking piece. We have, for example, a speed networking event coming up in April.
The field of technology is growing at a much faster pace in terms of jobs than other industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 15% growth in this decade. Where do you see the biggest opportunities in the Springfield area for developing our tech workforce?
This year just even for the conference, we’re expanding the tracks. These are areas of interest in cybersecurity, converging emerging technologies, development and (operations), development life cycles, and then we’ve got a leadership in technology track. We have manufacturing that just continues to grow with the tech field also. The last one is new, and it’s something that we found was needed: modernizing buildings with technology. That can bring in even people from the architectural community, because everybody’s coming to the table trying to figure out, OK, we’re building this building or this school; what do we need to do for tech? That’s another one of those emerging fields.
What are some of the ways the council is going to focus on keeping tech workers here?
Partnering with the colleges, and even we’ve talked about partnering with high schools. That’s an area that we can grow into more. And encouraging internships, showing the students that they can work here in the Springfield area. They don’t have to go to Kansas City. And I think just connecting with those in the area. We’re around 350 members, so just staying in tune with who we’re working with and then growing that membership, fostering those programming events, the networking events. Just showing that we’re here to help serve and help provide not only that programming angle but that community that can help build each other up. We have our big conference coming up March 8. It’s called STC Squared. This is the second year. We’re hoping for 400 (registrants), and we’ll likely get there. There’s no charge for the conference.
What are the biggest challenges local tech workers are facing?
Competitive pay, of course. Then, you have to consider the cost of living. I think just lack of awareness of the opportunities. We have a job board also on the Tech Council, so members can post their jobs and then we try to promote those out on our social media channels. As we grow, we can help elevate those job postings so everybody knows that we are the go-to place to find out what’s happening.
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