By Kathy McAuliffe
April 4, 2017
On January 26, 2017, Bruce Rauner, Governor of the State of Illinois proclaimed April 2017 as Information Technology Month in Illinois. This information and a copy of the declaration were provided to the DuPage County Workforce Development Division by CompTIA, the world’s largest IT industry association, based in Downers Grove. CompTIA worked with Governor Rauner on preparation of this directive for several months.
The designation of April as IT Month in Illinois celebrates the important IT work being done in the state, and is also meant to encourage communities and schools to explore IT as a contributor to the economy and workforce, helping students to understand the growing opportunities in both technology and the workforce.
Rauner’s proclamation states that the IT industry contributes an estimated 5.3 percent annually to the Illinois economy, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), and employs more than 234,000 individuals across Illinois at an average yearly salary of $95,062. It also states that the technology industry is projected to see an increase of more than 30,000 jobs by the year 2025, including new types of jobs that don’t yet exist, due to continuing technology development.
Good to be in IT
There are many reasons it’s good to be in IT. According to page 15 of the Robert Half 2017 Compensation Best Practices Report, for tech companies, higher pay for competitive jobs is much more prevalent (63 percent). On page 10 of the same report, the survey found that the technology industry was most likely to give base pay increases (84%.)
What’s more, IT not only offers many full employment opportunities; it also offers the opportunity to work project-to-project. According to the 2017 Robert Half Technology Salary Guide – p. 6 – “PROJECT AND CONSULTING WORK ABOUNDS. Project and consulting opportunities in technology, which have become more plentiful in recent years, are likely to remain steady in 2017. Many businesses have reached a tipping point with their IT ecosystem where it is now imperative that they significantly upgrade legacy technology, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, or migrate to new solutions.”
Wider Chicago area – Major IT hub
The IT jobs sector in DuPage County tends to be very healthy. A recent Information Technology overview of DuPage County showed the number of IT jobs in DuPage in 2015 to be 28,328.
At that time, the number was 176% above the national average for IT jobs in a given area. The same survey showed that the Number of Establishments in DuPage County with IT jobs in 2014 was 2,007.
Paul Cameron, President of DriveStaff in Wheaton, says of the IT industry in this area, “There are way more jobs than IT people. The Chicago area in general is recognized more and more nationwide as one of the major hubs for IT.
“It is in the Top 5 across the country,” Cameron points out.
Cameron’s company, DriveStaff is a thriving IT recruiting firm specializing in Senior Technology Professionals and IT Executives for Retained and Contingent searches in the Chicago area.
Mr. Cameron enthusiastically invites IT people who have been laid off to contact him right away because he has job openings coming in every day, not just from DuPage employers but from all over the wider metropolitan area, all the way up to Rockford and Vernon Hills, for example.
Named for the third revolution of digital technology, and the offspring of the Choose DuPage economic development group in Lisle, Rev3 is a diverse community of freelancers, entrepreneurs and small business tech startups. They offer coworking memberships, private office space, and event space. Located in Naperville, Rev3 is focused on driving the third revolution of digital technology in DuPage County.
The center has created partnerships with other community groups to host a great programming calendar which includes everything from sales seminars, to technical hacks, and social events. Some of the IT groups which Rev3 hosts are WordPress Naperville, Google Developer Group of the Western Suburbs, The Software Development Community, and the “DevOps in the Burbs” user group.
Colleges and Universities
The state of Illinois’ colleges and universities provide a multitude of options for degree and certificate programs in various tech sectors including software developers, computer systems and security analysts; network and computer infrastructure support.
According to www.Computer Training Schools.com/Illinois, “Illinois’ expansive educational system is one that offers computer science degree options at the public and private level — including a large community college system that has 46 colleges across the state.”
“Illinois is an academic powerhouse of a state, home to nationally ranked universities such as Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois. Besides the powerhouse universities, the state also has a long list of recognized, smaller colleges, such as Eastern Illinois University (Charleston), Bradley University (Peoria), Blackburn College (Carlinville) and Elmhurst College (Elmhurst). Indeed, prospective computer science students have the opportunity to study at some of the most highly ranked CS programs in the country, including the following (as ranked by US News and World Report):
University of Illinois – #5
Northwestern University – #34
University of Chicago – #34
University of Illinois-Chicago – #60
Illinois Institute of Technology – #101
More things to celebrate during IT Month in Illinois
Items in the news further support the declaration of April 2017 as Information Technology Month in Illinois:
- According to a 3/8/2017 article in Crain’s by author John Pletz, “There were 285 companies started last year by students, faculty or staff at Illinois schools last year, up from about 150 in each of the previous two years, according to a report by the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition.“
- The city of Chicago “has been getting more attention in recent years, with a steady procession of companies that have grabbed attention for fast growth, IPOs or big paydays, including Groupon, Grubhub, Cleversafe, Fieldglass and Braintree, says Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who analyzed where the jobs have been added recently. “We now see Chicago on the shortlist of places in the U.S. expanding their share of the digital tech industry,” says Muro.
- ITA is expanding itsTech Challenge program in April. For the first time, ITA will be offering a programming and coding skills competition to high school students. ITA will also be offering a “teaser’ exam to university students to help them prepare for the main event in the fall.
- Chicago ranked sixth among cities around the world among executives asked by KPMG to name three locations outside San Francisco/Silicon Valley that will be seen as leading technology innovation hubs in the next four years.
- On May 10, 2017, at its Inaugural Tech Summit, the ITA will bring together an exclusive group of innovators, executives, entrepreneurs and influencers to tackle technology trends that are having an impact on the local ecosystem and showcase how some of Chicago’s best technology companies are scaling their businesses.
- “…with the help of tech incubators like 1871 the growth of local training programs and the redevelopment of Fulton Market into Google’s chic new Chicago headquarters, Chicago’s tech hub status is starting to feel more real.”
- The IT industry needs more workers — and more workers need more opportunities.As the leading charity of CompTIA, the Creating IT Futures foundation is taking on this workforce challenge through research, program development and partnering.
The foundation creates on-ramps for more people to prepare for, secure and succeed in IT careers. It particularly encourages an IT path for populations that traditionally have been under-represented in the information technology workforce, such as women and ethnic minorities.
Some April Activities Planned
CompTIA is planning this first IT Month in Illinois with events at Wilbur Wright Community College in Chicago.
April 3-6—Resume’ Week where employers are invited to come to WWCC for several hours and review students’ resumes with them.
April 14 – Half-day professional development workshop for high school and community college teachers of computer/network support topics – video recap of one of these workshops is here.
April 17-20—Interview Week where employers are invited to come to WWCC for several hours to hold mock interviews with IT students
April 27—Career Fair where employers with real job openings are invited to participate and interview students for potential follow-up for their positions
April 29 – 11am-3pm – Competition for Illinois high school students: 2017 Raspberry Pi Student Application Challenge at Illinois Institute of Technology, McCormick Tribune Campus Center Ballroom – see link for more info.
We hope you will keep in mind the strength of Illinois in the IT sector, and recognize there is much to celebrate!
The DuPage County Workforce Development Division in Lisle offers training grants to qualified laid-off IT professionals. These grants provide job-seekers an opportunity to update IT skills and increase marketability as new job searches are undertaken. Please take a look at our website for information on this and many services we provide at no charge to local job-seekers and employers. www.worknetdupage.org »