Stereotypes around tech often include images of vast futuristic campuses filled with scooters where employees can bring their dogs to work and take naps in sleep pods. But the truth is the tech labor market is more complex than that. Software engineers don’t just work at Apple and Google — they work at banks, transportation companies and food distributors too.
As the world shifts to being digital, almost all companies need some sort of tech staff. Because of this, tech jobs on the whole are on the rise — between 2012 and 2017, tech jobs as a share of all jobs rose from 2.8% to 3.3%. But within many high tech industries, tech workers as a proportion of employees are actually declining, as companies hire for nontechnical roles at a faster rate.
If this seems counterintuitive, that’s because industries aren’t as homogeneous as we think. It’s not only bankers who work at banks — a variety of staff is needed, including tech talent, to support the business. The same goes for “tech” fields and companies. IBM isn’t made up of only programmers — they need robust marketing, sales and other teams to support what they do as well.
We wanted to learn more about the fields where tech jobs are growing the most, so we sat down with Indeed economist Andrew Flowers to chat about his research on this part of the labor market.
What are the key findings?
The industries that saw the largest growth in share of tech workers from 2012 to 2017 were ones outside what we typically associate with tech. As a sign of the changing world, some of the most traditional fields, like agriculture and energy, are leading the way in tech worker growth. In fact, the share of tech workers in agricultural implements and oil and gas extraction nearly doubled during this time period.
In this day and age, companies need a mix of talents to compete, and high tech industries recognize this as well. To this end, tech companies have leaned into hiring nontechnical talent. Software publishing companies, for example, saw an 11.4% decrease in share of tech workers from 2012 to 2017.
Tech companies should make sure their employer brand isn’t completely focused on technical roles. As Andrew says, “There’s a risk of people thinking ‘I don’t know how to code, so I don’t belong at a tech company.’ Employers need to send the message to talent that they don’t need to have tech skills to work there, and they’ll be highly valued as employees.”
What does this mean for job seekers?
Tech skills are in demand in almost any field you can think of. Wanting to pursue a career in tech doesn’t mean you’re limited to Silicon Valley — there are job options at companies that do everything from making dishwashers to publishing books. Andrew says, “If you have tech skills or want to break into tech, you can broaden your horizons. For example, if you want to be a data scientist, you can search for jobs at many types of companies. Even places like power companies need help working with energy usage data, for instance.”
Conversely, job seekers don’t need to be coding gurus to end up at tech companies. Nontech roles are on the rise at tech companies. Andrew advises, “No matter what your area of expertise, don’t discount yourself by not applying to tech companies. These companies need all sorts of workers.”
Tech is changing, and not only in terms of complex technological advancements, such as artificial intelligence. The tech labor market is changing in more subtle ways, as well. All types of fields and companies are hiring tech talent to help them advance. And companies within high tech industries are diversifying their hiring outside of technical roles to support more robust businesses. With both employers and job seekers broadening their horizons, this means something new for everyone.
*Full definition of industry: Other information services, except libraries and archives, and internet publishing and broadcasting and web search portals