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Want to keep talent here in Boston? Give them a job.

Posted by Devin Cole  October 4, 2011 12:10 PM

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I play on a summer Ultimate Frisbee team. Mostly, it’s made up of Tufts Alumni who played Ultimate as undergrads. Each year, we get some young blood joining the team from the graduating class. This year, I noticed that we had no new recruits. When I asked our team captain why, he told me that the seniors this year had such a hard time finding jobs in Boston, that they either moved wherever they could find work or, mostly, they moved back home to live for free, due to a lack of employment.

Little known secret: There are lots of great jobs in Boston that need filling.

The fact is, we have a misalignment of supply and demand. Lots of innovative companies, including the company I run, Boston Logic, are having a tough time finding the employees we need to grow. Folks with certain skill sets are in short supply. This includes:

  • Quantitative online marketers with knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click marketing, email marketing, and social media.
  • Web developers who can code in Ruby On Rails or Python/Django.
  • Salespeople who can close new business when an opportunity presents itself.

These are just the roles that we’ve been working to fill at Boston Logic. We recently hired a Ruby On Rails developer. It took us a year to fill the position. Every time I have lunch with someone in my industry, I ask them if they know anyone with quantitative online marketing skills. The standard answer comes back, “If I did, I’d have already hired them.” I don’t think there’s a single class at most colleges that teaches you how to sell – this is an essential function of most any business.

10 years ago, I was in college. I don’t remember being offered courses that would prepare me for any of the positions listed above. There’s a good reason for that. Few of those jobs existed back then. Ruby on Rails sure didn’t. SEO was a tiny industry a decade ago. Social Media? Who had any idea that it was useful for marketing back in the dot com era? We didn’t even call it social media back then, we just called it Friendster.

We have an amazing pool of talent coming to Boston for higher education. If they graduate with the skills that are in demand, they will be hired by companies like mine in a hurry. This would keep them here in Massachusetts. They’ll fill our housing stock and contribute to our economy.

So, here’s my idea: we can keep talent here in Boston AND deal with unemployment at the same time! Let’s have the colleges and the state team up! Let’s do a survey and figure our what jobs aren’t getting filled due to a lack of talent – then, let’s offer our college juniors and seniors some courses that will prepare them to step into these roles upon graduation. And let’s try to give them practical experiences while we’re at it.

Now, I’m sure there are some ivory tower-dwelling professors and faculty out there who think that it would be fickle to change their curricula to include what might be a fad. To these educators, I urge you to view this as being agile, rather than fickle. The fantastic education that you provide is giving your students a body of knowledge and a particular set of skills, but it’s not helping them find gainful employment in the state where they are educated.

Let’s do right by the students we are educating while providing employers a pool of talent from which to hire. We’ll keep the talent right here in Massachusetts while accelerating the pace of innovation. Sounds like a win-win to me.

David Friedman is the President and Founder of Boston Logic Technology Partners Inc, based in the South End. He is a Boston World Partnerships Connector

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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