© Courtesy of SUNY Westchester Community College.
Thanks largely to plans by tech giants IBM and Micron to invest billions in New York State, the region’s technology employment outlook is poised to take a quantum leap.
Even before the two companies’ proposals were unveiled, tech had consistently ranked among the top career opportunities in Westchester and the Hudson Valley. And it’s no surprise, since technology encompasses a vast variety of skill sets and holds such a prominent place in daily and business life. Tech is, in fact, such a wide-ranging field that it can be challenging to even classify. A 2023 report by the Office of the New York State Comptroller (OSC) notes that unlike many other sectors of employment, “there is no official definition of the technology sector.”
Tech generally includes businesses and workers that “research, design, manufacture, or maintain technologies related to computer systems, software, computer and communication equipment, the internet, and biotechnology,” according to the OSC.
“A lot of technology job titles blend into other sectors and might not be easily identified,” says Jason Chapin, director of workforce development for the Westchester County Association (WCA), a regional economic development and business advocacy organization based in White Plains.
“But technology jobs are clearly in great demand. If you have computer training, there is employment in every sector,” he adds, noting that a recent online search resulted in more than 500 tech-related positions open in Westchester.
Jobs in information technology or IT — they generally include hardware and software services, as well as supporting equipment and networks that manage and deliver information through voice, data, and video — are among the region’s tech categories on the rise.
IT jobs have grown by nearly 7% in the past five years, according to the 2022 annual report by the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council.
The council’s report also predicts the tech ecosystem’s momentum is likely to continue; more than 25% of employers surveyed last year said they expect their businesses to expand use of digital automation. That translates to a growing number of available tech jobs, with many local businesses unable to find enough workers.
“The fundamental problem that businesses in our region continue to face — regardless of the industry sector, including technology — is talent cultivation and retention. That’s their number one challenge,” says Michael Romita, the WCA’s president and CEO.
Big Boosts for Tech
A trio of recently announced major funding, building, and expansion projects in the state will play key roles in moving the region’s tech sector to the next level.
The bipartisan $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, a federal package passed by Congress in July 2022, provides roughly $53 billion to augment U.S. research and manufacture of semiconductors. Also known as integrated circuits (ICs) or microchips, semiconductors are materials that serve as key components in devices used by numerous fields including computing, communications, clean energy, transportation, healthcare, the military, and business.
The future of New York’s tech economy got an enormous boost when Micron Technology, a producer of computer memory and data storage based in Idaho, announced plans last July to invest up to $100 billion to build a huge semiconductor manufacturing campus near Syracuse. Construction is expected to start in 2024 and last for two decades on the project, which state officials are calling the largest proposed semiconductor factory in U.S. history.
Officials say Micron’s $20 billion initial investment could create nearly 50,000 jobs statewide, including 9,000 new positions at Micron alone, with an average company salary of more than $100,000 for some skilled employees.
Tech giant IBM made public in October 2022 its plans to invest $20 billion across the Hudson Valley in the next 10 years. IBM’s focus will be on expanded research, development, and manufacturing of semiconductors, mainframe technology, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing; the latter uses the laws of quantum mechanics to revolutionize the processing speed and power of computers.
President Joe Biden toured IBM’s Poughkeepsie site during the company’s unveiling of its expansion plans, commenting that as a result of the region’s ongoing tech progress, “the Hudson Valley could become the epicenter of the future of quantum computing, the most advanced and fastest computing ever seen in the world.”
Education and Earning Options
With technology on the radar for businesses and job seekers alike, training opportunities in the Westchester area abound in everything from hands-on apprenticeships to specialty college courses.
“Our technology and computer science programs continue to be popular fields of study,” says Mark Stollar, director of strategic marketing and communications at SUNY Westchester Community College. Stollar notes that the college anticipates a roughly 23% growth in enrollment rates of its for-credit courses compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The school has been designated a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency, Stollar adds. “We’re one of only nine community colleges nationwide, and the only one in the tri-state region, to receive this designation.”
SUNY WCC also offers short-term workforce training courses including Advanced Manufacturing, Industrial Technician and Fiber Optics Technician, Information Technology, and Microsoft Office Productivity.
Southern Westchester BOCES and BOCES of Putnam/Northern Westchester also provide a variety of courses in computer and tech-related training for students and adults, as well as for workers wanting to strengthen their existing skills or make a career shift into the field.
Pace University’s tech-related programs include a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology. The Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University teaches software engineering, computer science, and related disciplines.
To address the need for employees throughout its enormous company network, IBM launched a Skills First hiring approach in 2016 to help expand its employee base. “More than 50% of our jobs do not require a college degree,” Nickle LaMoreaux, IBM’s chief human resources officer, said recently. The company also features an apprenticeship program for people with existing tech skills but who lack a four-year college degree; plus, it offers free tech courses and resources through its Skills Build initiative.
Other local training options include the White Plains Education & Training Center, which, in conjunction with SUNY Westchester Community College, serves as a hub for workforce training in IT and other specialized fields.
Paychecks for information technology jobs vary according to skills, educational and professional background, and certification. The website Salary.com estimates an information technology manager in the Yonkers area could earn an annual salary of $143,000 to $174,000.
Overall, Westchester is home to an estimated 1,000 companies that use or rely on tech to function, according to the Westchester County Office of Economic Development. And as technology continues to progress in leaps and bounds, regional employment opportunities in the field are likely to keep expanding as well.