CHAMBER, TECH COUNCIL ISSUE REPORT ADDRESSING SHORTAGE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY WORKERS HERE

By DAVID A. FOX

Ask any Nashville-area company employer of information technology workers what’s his biggest challenge. The response is easy to predict: an inability to fill technology jobs with local workers.

Though Nashville’s pool of high-tech workers is growing more quickly here than just about anywhere else in the nation according to a recent survey, the perception remains that this is not an attractive IT environment.

A group of local businesspeople is setting out to change that. Their answer: a savvy PR campaign, better technological education in area schools, a new corporate culture that appreciates IT, and the recruitment of underrepresented populations into the field.

That’s the game plan of the IT Roundtable, a consortium of leaders from business, academia and the not-for-profit sectors organized by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate, the Nashville Technology Council.

On Thursday, the group released a report intended to help Nashville meet an expected steady increase in the demand for skilled technology workers. Among the report’s findings:

* “There is a need for increased competency in math and science from elementary school through higher education…Business must work closely with educators to ensure that curriculum is current and relevant and reflects the IT skills needed by businesses.”

* There needs to be a greater emphasis on recruiting IT companies, who typically don’t think of Nashville as an IT-strong city. Among the area’s perceived drawbacks: “few technology companies and little opportunity for careers compared to the ‘IT hotspots.’”

* A new local IT training center would be a major step in boosting the local IT workforce. “An all out effort to assist Nashville State Technical Institute in the pursuit of a National Science Foundation grant to develop an IT regional training center must be continued. This grant could quite possibly create a framework upon which all other activities could be implemented.”

The IT roundtable consists of 31 people from such organizations as BellSouth eBusiness, Caterpillar Financial, Dell Computer Co., Deloitte & Touche, HealthStream, Metro Nashville, Vanderbilt University, Weberize and Zycron Computer Services. They are assisted by four staff members of the Chamber and Technology Council and two outside facilitators.