Celena Mancina, Grand Circus and Brandon Brown, Meridan
Celena Mancina, Grand Circus and Brandon Brown, Meridan

West Michigan’s IT industry is one of the fastest growing in the nation. With a growth rate +6.5% over the national average, employers are concerned about finding enough talent to fill their job openings. On Thursday, June 21, West Michigan Tech Talent invited IT and HR professionals from the region to explore this issue. Hosted by Start Garden, attendees heard from employers who are using both traditional and non-traditional ways to grow their talent pipeline.

“When unemployment is low and the demand for qualified talent increases, as it is now, creating innovative ways to find and develop talent has never been so important,” said Joe Thiry, Business Solutions Representative and IT Sector Lead at West Michigan Works!

“Using non-traditional pathways not only creates a larger pool of qualified candidates, it also benefits the company by increasing diversity in a sector known for having low levels of women and minority workers.”

Lack of diversity in IT is not just a perception; it’s a reality. When the majority of computer science graduates are white males and employers recruit primarily from this pool, diversity is not going to increase. Employers who focus on this method are also competing with multiple other companies for new talent because there are more job openings than graduates.

Brandon Brown, sr. director of talent acquisition at Meridian, discussed how the metro Detroit health care company uses non-traditional strategies to train and onboard tech talent. One way Meridian is doing this is through collaboration with local organizations like Grand Circus. With offices in Grand Rapids and Detroit, Grand Circus offers training to individuals who want to break into the IT sector or build upon their current skills. Meridian regularly recruits entry-level developers from the 12-week coding bootcamp at Grand Circus.

In addition to non-traditional recruitment practices, Brown noted that IT employers need to work together to create their talent pool. “Collaboration is key,” said Brown. “Breaking down walls and working together—versus competing—to create a tech hub in your region will attract more talent.”

Darin Crosby, Goodwill; Bryan Mecklenburg, Goodwill; Joe Thiry, West Michigan Works!; Trudy Ngo-Brown, WMCAT