Right Talent or White Talent

In today’s paper, there was a story about a round table meeting with technology leaders in the area. The story was basically about helping the area grow into a technology hub and the problems associated with achieving that goal. This area is considered one of the top places to live and start a business is the U.S. However, the state’s education system isn’t exactly in the top 10 in the country.


These panelists touched on the school systems in the state being a problem of getting talented technology workers to move here. They also cited a lack of tax incentives and other exemptions that other industries receive for moving here. One CEO in particular talked about not being able to hire all the talent they needed from a local school, which just happens to be one of the largest in the state. His company needed to go outside the state to bring in talent. This same company ran advertisements in a Midwest state to recruit employees.


What’s interesting about all of this is, there are at least ten schools of higher education here. I’ll also assume that this company does recruit at the larger schools in the state. But I’m willing to bet that they don’t recruit at a single HBCU in this state or any other state. I think that’s part of the reason technology companies are having a problem with recruiting here. There are at least five HBCUs within ninety miles of here. I know there are some talented students graduating from there. I include myself in that number. Unfortunately, the good ol’ boy network is still alive and well. Supposedly, when it comes to technology workers, talent and knowledge are the main currencies. Not for Blacks. Maybe for Asians or East Indians.


These companies are missing out on talent that is right beneath their collective noses. I know this first hand because one of the companies mentioned in the article didn’t hire my wife. They’ll never know the special gifts that she could have brought to the company. In her case however, I don’t think race was a factor. Given her experience and high level of pay at her previous job, they most likely figured she’d want too high of a salary.


This brings me to what I think is the main reason these companies have a problem getting employees: they don’t want to pay for talent. People tend to move to this area because of the warm weather and laid back lifestyle. Being a beautiful and historical area certainly helps also. Companies try to sell the lifestyle, which means they can low-ball salary offers. I don’t know too many knowledge workers willing to go from 85K+ to 60K just to live in a vacation spot. Especially when there are other places to live that are just as nice and companies there will meet your salary demands.


As long as companies here continue to ignore minorities and refuse to raise their pay levels, they will keep having recruiting problems. Even at my current company, a VP told me I’d have to go work for another company to make the kind of money I wanted. I must admit, I was a little ticked off at first. It seemed that “the man” was just trying to hold me down. As I thought about it however, I decided he’s right; my goal is to take my talent and eventually make more than our CEO.


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