KC has seen tech ‘brain gain’ but still faces skills shortage, tech council reports

Despite facing a shortage of skilled talent, the tech industry in Kansas City contributed roughly $12 billion — or about 10% — to the local economy in 2018, according to an annual report released by the KC Tech Council, a nonprofit advocacy group that aims to spur tech growth in the city.

Nearly one in 10 working Kansas Citians are employed by tech companies, which have together created more than 100,700 jobs in the city, according to the report, titled “KC Tech Specs.”

Driven by analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources like Code.org, KC Tech Specs presents the current landscape and future trends of the tech sector in the Kansas City region.

The numbers for Missouri followed a trend similar to those for Kansas City. The tech industry contributed $22 billion dollars — or about 8% — to Missouri’s economy in 2018, according to the report.

However, the tech community in Kansas didn’t experience the same fate. In 2018, Kansas posted the second-highest number of tech job losses among all 50 states, according to the report. The state also experienced the loss of tech business.

While numbers in Kansas City’s tech industry are climbing, the city still has about 3,000 unfilled tech positions due to a tight labor market and a need for highly skilled tech talent, according to the report.

“The biggest problem facing KC’s tech industry is the lack of a skilled workforce. We share this problem with the entire country,” Ryan Weber, CEO of the KC Tech Council, wrote in the report.

Current state

Tech employees in Missouri were paid almost 90% more than the average wage in the state, but both Kansas City and Missouri lagged behind the national average compensation. While the wages are relatively high, a gender disparity exists in the sector with more than 77% of tech jobs held by men.

Kansas City has experienced “brain gain,” which means the city has imported tech degree graduates from other regions to compensate for a deficit of tech workers. A majority of the employees hired by tech companies are computer science graduates with a bachelor’s degree in “General IT,” according to the report.

Future trends

The report projected that the tech industry will add 13,000 more tech positions in Missouri by 2026.

Projects like the Virgin Hyperloop One, a futuristic transportation system Missouri is vying to attract, have drawn the KC Tech Council’s attention as potential job creators. In May, Sprint officially launched 5G technology in select cities, including Kansas City, which could expand the capabilities of the tech industry in many ways, according to the report.

Additionally, policy changes around data privacy statutes and computer science education standards have the opportunity to propel the industry forward, the report predicted.

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