Over the last few years, we’ve observed the technology economy as it has grown, warped, and evolved. From the perspective of other industries, the tech universe looms and fascinates.

But now, we can’t only watch from the sidelines.

Technology is no longer just driving tech companies — it is such an economic force that it has a hand in how nearly every other sector grows.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis recently recalculated the gross domestic product of the United States to account for tech’s sizable influence.

All Industries Become Tech Industries.

Since 2010, the number of tech-related jobs in the U.S. has increased by around 200,000 every year, and the U.S. economy is becoming increasingly reliant on tech labor for its survival.

Beyond behemoths such as Google and Facebook (which are massive employers of city-based American workers), the need for tech talent has spread to other industries. Retailers, banks, and other organizations have been redefined as tech companies — all because they need their workforces to have tech skills to keep up, grow, and innovate.

Nontechnical industries are hurting for this kind of talent, which becomes apparent when we examine employment stats. Glassdoor’s “What’s Ahead for Jobs? Five Disruptions to Watch in 2018” report noted a growing trend in the recruitment of tech talent by nontech employers. And according to an annual survey by CareerBuilder, some of the most sought-after capabilities are those tied to cybersecurity (11%), artificial intelligence and machine learning (10%), and data analysis (21%).

How the Tech Talent Gap Will Impact the Economy

Because the need for tech talent has ballooned so swiftly, it overtook education and training models. While companies and higher education models continue to teach using traditional methods, the demand for pure tech talent is gaping.

This flurry of unfilled, high-paying jobs has profoundly impacted the economy. Because these tech jobs are generally available in tech hubs — aka major cities — disparities between urban and rural communities are growing.

After analyzing U.S. census data, Bloomberg found that income inequality in one of tech’s biggest hubs (San Francisco) continues to intensify. The gap between the wealthy and the middle class grew from $118,000 to $529,500 in just five years. In 2017 alone, the top 5% of households earned more than $632,000, while the middle class earned just over $102,700.

Solutions have begun to spring up. New models of education that are more like industry boot camps, such as LaunchCode, are designed not only to fill America’s workplace needs, but also to match nontraditional learners with fields where they can thrive.

But tech’s boom has been so big and so widespread that we need to think more deeply about how to adapt our nontech industries.

We need ways to redistribute tech skills and scale the accessibility of tech jobs and training so that we’re reaching country and coastal talent.

Nontech Industries Help Address the Talent Gap.

We may have been watching the tech boom from the sidelines, but now, it’s our turn to impact the future of work. Nontech companies have the opportunity to innovate talent pipelines so that workers can be effectively trained and hired, and industries can begin to fulfill their broadening potential for growth.

Individual companies are already leading this charge and investing in tech talent workforce programs. Last spring, for example, Home Depot pledged to add more than 1,000 additional tech workers to its 2,800-person tech staff in 2018 — as part of a big-picture, multiyear strategy to become a more competitive retailer amid big online players such as Amazon.

Additionally, more companies are changing their hiring requirements to ensure that they are more accessible to nontraditional candidates. A survey of 600 human resources leaders found that hiring managers are becoming less attached to traditional qualifications and more open to candidates who do not have four-year college degrees.

Others are pioneering through training initiatives. According to Joseph Fuller, a professor at Harvard Business School, many employees are now actively excited about the prospect of retraining and gaining skills in new technologies, as long as employers are ready and willing to create those opportunity pathways.

If we allow the tech talent shortage to widen, it is not just tech hubs like Silicon Valley that will feel the strain.

The time has come to use our creative brainpower to invent and adopt better hiring practices for tech talent in nontech companies.

Hiring of high tech talent by nontech companies is how businesses will set themselves apart as employers in this rapidly shifting landscape.

Jeff Mazur

Executive Director for LaunchCode

Jeff Mazur is the executive director for LaunchCode, a nonprofit aiming to fill the gap in tech talent by matching companies with trained individuals.