Tech's impact on Denver -- A budding scene

Tuesday February 5, 2019 0 comments Tags: Sunny Ackerman

By Sunny Ackerman

President of Americas

Frank Recruitment Group

Denver is an exciting place to live and work. Having split my time between the Mile High City and other U.S. tech hubs since our company moved here in Fall 2018, I can attest to its bristling potential first-hand.

We’re not the only ones making a home in Denver; the population has tripled since 2000 and many of those flocking to the city are coming in to help fill the ever-growing shortage of tech workers.ackerman-mug.fixed

It’s been easy to persuade digital professionals to join us in Denver due to a burgeoning tech sector and a skills gap that feels somewhere approaching critical. According to the Denver Post, there are more than 15 vacant posts for every unemployed STEM worker. That’s an incredible growth rate but we must be aware of the impact this may have on both the city and the wider state.

The economic benefits are obvious. Denver’s investment in new construction was estimated to be over $2 billion in 2018, almost double that of the year before. This brings with it a number of jobs in all sorts of different industries before any office spaces are even opened. And those jobs in turn bring more money into the local economy. Denver’s booming coffee industry has done pretty well out of me to start!

We need to be conscious of the knock-on effect this growth can have on an environmental level, however. Increased traffic into Colorado has necessitated much-needed renovations to the Denver International Airport, and though more footfall stimulates the local economy, it potentially brings with it more pollution, so we have to be responsible. Every business I have encountered here is pushing to be as paperless as possible, so I certainly believe there is a conscious effort here to offset the negatives with a positive.

We can definitely make sure that with other small changes, the industry’s growth in Denver is a good thing. One major consideration is defunct equipment; as technology evolves and quickly becomes redundant, old laptops, smartphones and tablets disappear. There are fantastic opportunities to recycle them in a variety of ways. Education is a far better destination than a landfill site, and will also provide a chance for existing residents to join this expansion.

Whilst we want to bring the best tech talent in the world to Denver, it’s also important that companies encourage the local community to take advantage, too. Students in Colorado who wish to study STEM subjects now have an incredible array of opportunities in front of them and tech organizations should be trying to partner up with education facilitators to put Denver’s next generation of tech professionals on the right track.

It’s also a fantastic chance to retrain or upskill local workers who may have an interest in the sector but are wary of the qualifications and experience required. We have a responsibility to help the local economy to grow, but it shouldn’t be a case of ‘them’ and ‘us’ as industries pop up around us to serve incoming tech workers.

Changes in the local landscape will, of course, happen naturally when it’s adapting to a shifting population, and not all of these changes are negative; I have no doubt that a sudden influx of trendy millennials has helped rank Colorado as third in the U.S for craft beer sales and production! But we need to make sure that the tech population isn’t just made up of people who have flown here.

We must try to make the industry as inclusive as possible. It’s a very skilled area of work, but we shouldn’t allow this to become a barrier. The technology sector isn’t and shouldn’t be a closed door, so tech companies should look for opportunities to upskill and train the workforce already available to them.

In fact, as we place an ever-growing emphasis on improving diversity and gender representation, the answer to this problem could be on our doorstep. It’ll be interesting to see what trends emerge over the next few years as Denver’s growth continues, but my sincere hope is that we don’t leave anybody behind.

It feels like the city is growing faster than any of us could have dreamed of. Let’s hope this translates into a positive impact on the place we now call home.

About the author

Sunny Ackerman is president of Americas for Frank Recruitment Group, which moved to Denver in September 2018. She is a veteran of the recruitment industry with over 20 years of experience.  Having been featured three times in the Staffing Industry Analyst Global Power 150 list, not only is Ackerman an important voice on leadership but also a keen advocate on improving equality in the workplace.