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Tech talent is the hot topic as TECNA’s national conference (finally) returns to Pittsburgh

Technology Councils of North America will gather 100 execs, including from Philadelphia, to discuss challenges including how to bring more underrepresented pros into the industry.

Attendees of TECNA's 2019 conference.

(Photo courtesy of Technology Councils of North America)

Technology Councils of North America (TECNA) and 100 execs from around the continent will be in Pittsburgh the rest of this week for the membership organization’s annual summer conference. The conference is July 20 through 22 and hosted by local TECNA member Pittsburgh Technology Council (PTC).

Sound familiar? This is the same conference that was originally scheduled to take place in the city for July 2020. However, due to the pandemic, TECNA chose to host a virtual gathering for the last two years. Pittsburgh previously hosted TECNA in 2002.

TECNA represents about 60 IT and technology trade organizations across the United States and Canada who in turn represent over 22,000 tech-related companies in North America. When Pittsburgh was originally chosen in 2020, Tim Jemal, TECNA’s former executive director, said then that the org’s board of directors considered multiple host bids and concluded that PTC’s staff and conference facility made it a great choice to host the conference.

“Pittsburgh’s continuing rise as a dynamic tech ecosystem coupled with a strong tech council makes it an ideal location for the 2020 TECNA Summer Conference,” Jemal said at the time. (TECNA’s new executive director as of January 2021, Jennifer Grundy Young, is a Pittsburgh native and a longtime former team member of PTC.)

The conference will cover topics such as recruiting talent, growing membership, sponsorships and event attendance, and preparing for a potential recession. Brian Kennedy, SVP of operations and government affairs at PTC, told Technical.ly this week that talent remains one of the biggest challenges participating organizations are facing in 2022.

“Collectively, Tecna’s member association represent more than 22,000 employers who [are] facing massive shortfalls in skilled software engineers, cyber security professionals and business analysts,” he wrote in an email.

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Trade organizations are trying to find innovative ways to get underrepresented pros into the tech industry, including by creating “guided pathways.” The Apprenti program, for instance, was launched by the Washington Technology Industry Association and has “rapidly expanded into other markets, including Pittsburgh,” he said. In Apprenti PGH’s first year, the local program has seen almost 35 apprenticeship slots filled and a 95% retention rate for apprentices. Per Kennedy, more than half of the participants are women, 38% are African American, and 16% are Latinx. (Read more about Apprenti PGH’s structure and goals.)

Dean Miller, president of Philadelphia Alliance Capital and Technologies (PACT), told Technical.ly he is heading to the TECNA conference this week and plans to speak with other Apprenti leaders as he looks to bring the program to Philly in the coming months.

“It is so helpful to connect face to face with your peers and I am excited for this year’s event,” Miller said. “This conference will give me the opportunity to connect with the Apprenti national leadership as well as my other peers that have also launched Apprenti.”

The travel itself is a perk, too.

“I have spent a lot of time mining the robust and growing Pittsburgh region for investments but it has been a few years since I visited,” he said. “Can’t wait to get back!”

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