Three Challenges Facing the Chicago Tech Industry

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MSPs face a mountain of challenges, regardless of where they are located.

And while MSPs across the country all draw from a similar pool of struggles, we’ve found that some challenges pose a greater difficulty to overcome for MSPs in our hometown of Chicago.

And so, in an effort to educate our local MSP community, we wanted to bring light on the issues that concern Chicago MSPs the most.

Print Partner has developed relationships with hundreds of MSPs across the country. And while we’ve spread our reach to nearly every state in the nation, our parent company, Green Office Partner, is headquartered right here in Chicago, IL. We know this city like the back of our hand!

In this article, we’ll review three of the biggest challenges facing the Chicago tech community.

1. The Gap Between Talent Supply and Demand

In recent years, it has become abundantly clear that the tech industry is on an upward trajectory.

From tech startups to outdated offices implementing new equipment, the demand for tech industry professionals is projected to only increase in the coming years. Not to mention the crazy increase in security needs…

But despite the explosive growth in the demand for tech wizards, experts have found that Chicago has a staggering gap between the tech jobs available and the number of qualified technicians that can take them.

In their 2021 issue of The State of Chicago Tech Talent, P33 & Chicago Tech Talent Coalition cover the issues surrounding the disparity between demand and supply of personnel within the tech industry.

In this issue, they write the following: “Software engineering and data-centric roles are driving tech talent demand growth in Chicago, and the demand consistently outpaces supply.”

To support these findings, P33 & The Chicago Tech Talent Coalition surveyed their company partners on eight categories of jobs:

  • Software Engineering

  • Data and Analytics

  • Cloud computing

  • Cybersecurity

  • Product development

  • DevOps

  • Network and Systems Administrators

  • Tech Support

And if their findings are telling of the future, the gap will only trend toward increasing in the coming years. 

More than 90% of the tech companies they surveyed expect to increase the hiring of software engineers and data & analytics talent over the next three years.

And while Chicago is not alone in its rising need for talent, our windy city resides in a state with a uniquely high level of growth in math and science.

A 2020 Illinois Science and Technology Coalition report reads, “By percentage, no state among the top 10 in STEM employment has grown jobs more quickly than Illinois over the past decade.”

With the demand for talent rising, your MSP will need a stellar recruiting strategy to hire the best staff you possibly can. Hone in on your training and onboarding strategies, and evaluate what specific qualities you are looking for in candidates.

For tips on hiring top talent for your organization, read: How to Hire Quality MSP Staff

2. Lack of Diversity

Chicago’s numbers on technician diversity offer some sobering insights.

According to the 2021 State of Chicago Tech Talent, “Fewer than 4% of bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science recipients from Illinois colleges (excluding for-profit institutions) are awarded to Black students and fewer than 12% to Hispanic students—despite these groups making up more than 30% of Illinois’ population.”

Studies like this indicate a very real issue with Chicago’s tech-industry pipeline from a systemic level.

The report explains that this lack of students of color graduating with comp-sci degrees stems from the failure of Chicago high schools to produce college-ready students of color.

The report shows that 85% of Black students and 73% of Hispanic students do not graduate with college-ready math skills.

Despite the larger social implications of these studies, inequality in the tech workforce negatively impacts the Chicago tech community in two primary ways.

Reduced Number of Qualified Hires

First, it limits your MSP’s number of talented new hires in the job market.

As we reviewed, Chicago is starving for qualified, top-level individuals ready to meet their increasing number of tech-related career openings. And inequalities of opportunity widen the gap between the supply and demand of talent even further.

The State of Chicago Tech Talent estimates that Illinois loses out yearly on 600 Black and Hispanic graduates in the tech industry - “600 diverse computing professionals every year that our companies are so hungry for and that we are failing to produce.”

The unfortunate and uncomfortable truth is that, while Chicago’s tech scene draws from a plentiful group of intelligent, educated graduates, the city’s social and economic inequalities hold back its technology sector from its true potential.

Limits on Innovation

Hiring employees from diverse backgrounds often leads to a broader pool of ideas to pull from.

This is especially true when your MSP is trying to break into a new market. Having a range of various experiences to draw from can be highly beneficial.

“Lack of diversity can lead to a lack of innovation and limit the industry’s growth potential,” writes Mike Kolter in his piece, The Current State of Tech in Chicago.

3. The Shift to Remote Work

Chicago is a big city with a vast pool of clients to choose from and talent to recruit from.

Despite the city’s issues with diversity, Chicago is home to some of the most prestigious schools in the country, giving Chicago MSPs a massive advantage in their recruiting efforts compared to other cities.

At least, this has been true for the city historically. But times are changing, and many employees want to work remotely.

Since the pandemic, an exodus from in-person offices has transformed the modern American workplace, affecting MSPs and nearly every other industry.

Jack Flynn from Zippia reports the following statistics about the shift to remote work:

  • 26% of U.S. employees work entirely remotely as of 2022

  • 66% of U.S. employees work remotely, at least part-time

  • 16% of U.S. companies are fully remote

  • 15% of work opportunities in the US are remote

For more information on the post-pandemic effects on the MSP industry, read: How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Managed Print Services?

To keep up with industry trends, many companies within the tech industry have elected to hire a location-agnostic workforce, with teams comprised of employees based inside and outside of Chicago.

Source: State of Chicago Tech Talent 2021

While hiring outside the city allows you to pull from a broader base of recruits, it opens up a new can of worms.

Many Chicago MSPs may not be used to hiring outside of the city and will have to consider how to recruit against competing companies in other cities and states - or even different countries!

When hiring outside of Chicago, consider other locations’ average pay rates for the role you are hiring for, differences in time zones, and challenges that come with remote hires… the list of challenges for remote hiring goes on.

But due to hiring challenges and a market-wide shift to remote work, many MSPs don’t have a choice - remote hiring is necessary.

“Some companies have only reluctantly been dragged into this game,” read the State of Chicago Tech Talent report. “They do not believe it is the best talent management strategy, but have decided they cannot afford to only fish in one market.”

No matter how fancy your espresso machine is, the writing is on the wall - people want to work from home!

Print Partner and Chicago’s Challenges

The challenges MSPs face in Chicago are plentiful, and your road forward may not always be clear.

These are just a few of the many challenges Chicago MSPs face - while we tried to cherry-pick issues more unique to Chicago, your MSPs face many of the same challenges that tech geeks worldwide deal with.

But whether your MSP wants to combat issues of hiring talent, your workforce’s lack of diversity, or the problems that come with hiring remote workers, Print Partner will be here to support you 100% of the way.

We are the number one trusted print partner to hundreds of MSPs across the country. And especially when it comes to our home base of Chicago, we know what it takes for MSPs to succeed.

When their clients need print support, our MSP partners refer them to our parent company, Green Office Partner, and we’ll take the burden of print off of your hands.

Plus, we’ll pay you! We’ll offer $250 per introduction for each referral, plus $1,000 per copier sold and 5% on the client's lifetime print allotment.

So if you create additional revenue for your business while you tackle the many challenges of being a Chicago MSP, consider partnering with us, a Print Partner you can trust.

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