The digital boom in Denver is evident by looking at the landscape of the city itself. It’s not the only industry to have flocked to the Mile High City, but as many tech giants have set up bases there, it’s no coincidence that the city spent an estimated $2 billion on new construction in 2018.
The benefit of that is wide-ranging. As well as stable, long-term jobs for skilled STEM workers, in a sector that continues to see rapid growth, plenty of other vacancies have arisen to help satisfy this influx. Building teams are required, meaning the construction sector has benefitted, and once the office space is opened the service industry also creates a wide variety of jobs.
Denver’s population has tripled since 2000, and those people new to the area need accommodation, places to eat out, drink and occasionally even relax! While this all brings money and career opportunities into the area, we need to be mindful of our responsibilities towards our new home in order for this to be a mutually beneficial contribution to the city rather than creating a ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation.
Jobs in tech
There are plenty of gloomy predictions around the looming skills crisis that faces technology. Virtually every company now has a digital presence and that requires manpower, meaning skilled workers are in short supply at a time when they’re needed the most. While professionals are relocating to Denver to satisfy labor demands, it’s important to look at alternative solutions that respect the city and its existing population.
Tech may be a highly skilled area of work, but those capabilities can be taught and people with a genuine interest in a career in STEM can be upskilled or retrained. At a time when the industry is looking to become more inclusive, this is a fantastic opportunity for companies to look at ways they can benefit the local community and provide employment to existing residents. Creating pathways to qualifications and entry-level programs will ensure that those who have the suitable soft skills can gain the experience needed to be an asset.
Education plays a part
On a similar note, it’s imperative that we open the industry up to the local community, including from a formative age. There are incredible career opportunities on students’ doorsteps and failing to take advantage of this would be a huge failing, especially as it’s estimated that there are 15 openings for tech jobs for every unemployed worker.
This may be difficult to turn around immediately, but partnering with educational facilitators will help reverse this in time. This will also provide an opportunity to recycle old equipment as it becomes defunct. Huge tech organizations may be able to re-invest in the latest innovations and upgrade things such as laptops, smartphones and tablets that can easily be wiped, back to default settings. Putting them back into circulation can be a real tangible benefit to the public.
As well as recycling, it’s definitely important to consider the impact the industry will have on Denver in the long term. The increase in population has the potential to have a negative effect—that traffic into Colorado has made renovations to Denver International Airport essential, in order to cope with the extra footfall. That has the potential to increase pollution, meaning everybody needs to do their bit to try to offset it.
Whether that’s recycling or trying to avoid the car, it would be a huge shame if tech brought financial rewards and job opportunities aplenty, but left the place worse for it. The endless recreational activities make this such a desirable home, and everyone has a responsibility to make sure it stays that way.
One major benefit of the tech industry’s presence is its conscious move away from traditional resource-heavy methods of working. I can’t think of an office I’ve visited here that hasn’t had a huge drive towards being as paperless as possible, with water coolers to try to avoid excessive plastics in use. They’re small changes, but when everyone is doing their bit, that can total a significant contribution overall.
Hopefully the lasting benefits to Denver, and Colorado as a whole, will be varied. Those job opportunities within tech are backed up with career paths in a variety of positions, which all support the ecosystem that has moved to the city. Think about your morning commute, for example. How many more coffee shops have sprung up in the last decade, all satisfying the extra demand for a cup of java to kickstart people’s working day? Tech has played a significant part in creating this demand, due to the sheer numbers who’ve moved to the city!
The entire infrastructure will also hopefully be better as a result. Improvements to the airport as well as public transport will make it even better for those traveling here, and make it more appealing for other industries to look at as a viable destination to settle.
Denver already boasts the third highest sales of craft beer in the U.S, which I’m sure a generation of millennial workers with disposable income makes a significant contribution towards. The presence of tech workers will create a plethora of opportunities for those with an entrepreneurial mind who don’t necessarily have an interest in a career in STEM.
Ultimately, everyone is responsible for ensuring that tech’s legacy on Denver is a positive one. It has created the potential for a well-remunerated career path for local workers with transferable soft skills, as well as students who may previously have faced having to gamble on an expensive relocation. Instead, if the industry embraces its new community it will be welcomed with open arms.
It’s important that everyone involved in the industry remembers the part they have to play in this. There’s no use looking at your peers, rivals and competitors and being reassured that they’re doing their bit. Instead, see what they are doing and replicate it, or even try to better their efforts.
The technology industry’s presence in the Mile High City has already brought great benefits, but it’s vital that those involved continue to make a conscious effort to make it a welcome addition to the local economy.
By Ian Clark, Head of Americas at Frank Recruitment Group.