Virginia gained more than 4,100 technology jobs in 2016.
But employers in the commonwealth still listed 32,579 technology job openings during the last three months of the year. More than 291,000 Virginians work in the tech industry. Nearly as many are employed in technology occupations across other industries.
The state is home to about 21,000 technology businesses. And about 7.7 percent of people in Virginia’s workforce work in the tech industry, which makes up an estimated 10.7 percent or $51.3 billion of the state’s economy.
Those metrics put Virginia sixth in the nation for tech industry employment, according to a recently released annual analysis by CompTIA, a nonprofit technology association.
“Cybersecurity related jobs, whether they’re at the ground level or they’re more advanced or they’re more strategic, those are in high demand and (workers are) in short supply,” said Steven Ostrowski, a spokesman for CompTIA, which is based in the Chicago area.
Jobs that focus on cloud-based work are in demand. Ostrowski said companies’ hesitancy to migrate to cloud-based services has evaporated in recent years. As businesses gained confidence cloud-based services are functional and secure, “that’s generated a lot more opportunities for IT professionals with cloud-based skills.”
The report does not break out the numbers by regions within each state or explore how many of Virginia’s tech jobs have military or federal connections. Ostrowski said CompTIA may research those issues in the future.
“High-tech industries such as cybersecurity, biomedical, software development and computer analysis have great potential in Hampton Roads,” said Bryan Stephens, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber, in an email. “And now is the time to act as we look for ways to take advantage of the intercontinental optic cables coming to our region later this year.
“This, if properly leveraged and coupled with all our other amazing resources, provides us with a unique opportunity to be the technology industry center of gravity for the commonwealth,” Stephens said.
Data analytics, artificial intelligence and work related to the internet of things, are tech sectors that also are primed for growth, Ostrowski said.
Karen Jackson, Virginia’s secretary of technology, said growth will continue to help reduce the state’s economic dependence on Department of Defense federal funding.
“There are new markets for products that have been historically military or DoD oriented,” Jackson said. “It’s a matter of helping those companies find those new markets. It’s not that the old companies are going to go away but they do have to seriously look at how they retool themselves to be less DoD dependent.”
Jackson also predicts “we’re going to hear more and more” about unmanned systems, whether they’re designed to operate on land, in the air or at sea. She said Virginia has an advantage in that legislators have not rushed to regulate autonomous vehicles and unmanned systems.
“We’ve been very able to stave off regulatory and other actions that would have actually tamped down or shut down the industry. We’re actually seeing that Virginia is known now as one of the most policy friendly states when it comes to autonomy because we haven’t rushed to put stuff on the books,” she said.
Jackson said Virginia is well positioned for continued tech sector growth, which in turn, helps bolster the state’s overall economy. In order to support that growth, “there’s got to be a workforce there to fill it.”
Ostrowski agreed. He said anything that promotes entrepreneurship and creative thinking for students, especially middle and high school students, strengthens the workforce development pipeline.
“There’s so many opportunities out there – tech in health care, tech in government, tech in finance, entertainment,” Ostrowski said. “So it’s not like you’re sitting in a dark room somewhere writing code all day or you’re waiting for somebody’s laptop to break and you’re going to fix it.”
Jackson and Ostrowski also pointed out the industry offers attractive salaries. According to CompTIA, the average annualized 2016 wage for a Virginia technology industry worker was $112,000, compared to the average state wage of $54,200.
The state ranked seventh nationally in wages.
CompTIA used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and other sources for its analysis.