By Noah Hill, Christina Henderson, and Katy Spence
When Amelia Lyons was looking to move from San Francisco to Montana, she came across the Montana High Tech Business Alliance (MHTBA) jobs board and found an opportunity.
“I found my job at TOMIS through the MHTBA jobs portal,” said Lyons, who formerly worked as the operations coordinator for the company. “When you want to work for a startup company, MHTBA is a good place to find those jobs.”
One of the benefits of Alliance membership is advertising open jobs on our jobs board, which advertises hundreds of tech and manufacturing positions across the state. Members may post unlimited jobs for free with a paid membership.
In a 2018 profile of Montana’s High Tech Industries, the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) reported that nearly 30 percent of tech employers found it increasingly difficult to find and hire qualified employees. One of MHTBA’s biggest priorities is helping Montana companies grow by connecting job seekers to opportunities and helping recruit top talent through both our jobs portal, marketing and PR, and extensive company network.
The jobs portal also serves as a wealth of information about the Montana tech workforce. Based on data analysis all of the jobs available at MTHighTech.org during the 4th quarter of 2018, we were able to categorize jobs based on their location, career interest, and career level and identify a few key insights.
From October to December 2018, the MHTBA jobs portal advertised nearly 250 unique opportunities. More than half of these jobs were filled within the same time period. Opportunities ranged from executive positions at some of the largest companies in the tech industry, like Oracle, to business development positions at Montana-based startups like TOMIS, which was featured in the 2018 High-Growth Companies to Watch list. The diversity of opportunity underscores the expansion of the tech industry within the state, which is growing at 9 times the rate of the overall Montana economy and surpassed $1.7 billion in revenue in 2017 according to BBER.
Moreover, our jobs portal data indicates that the reach of the tech industry is broadening within the state: 50 percent of the available opportunities were based in communities besides the traditional tech centers of Bozeman and Missoula. The distribution of jobs across the state reflects the growing and diversifying membership of the Alliance.
Unsurprisingly, more than 25 percent of open positions required a background in software programming. Half of posted programming jobs were filled during Q4. Manufacturing positions placed second in terms of total number of positions, representing about 20 percent of available jobs, and proved easier for employers to fill with almost 67 percent of positions filled by the end of the quarter. Construction jobs were much harder to fill, with only 20 percent of posted positions filled.
True to anecdotal evidence, typically high-paying engineering positions are in excess but are proving hard to fill. Only about one-quarter of posted engineering positions were filled during Q4.
Fields including finance, administration, and sales tended to be filled at higher rates than the jobs that rely on computational or engineering backgrounds. Administration positions had the highest rate of hiring at 85 percent. Companies hiring for Sales and Customer Service positions found qualified candidates 77 percent and 70 percent of the time respectively. Jobs in IT were filled at a rate of 61 percent and Finance at 57 percent. Marketing jobs were filled 50 percent of the time.
The number of unfilled positions for software and manufacturing, in particular, highlights the importance of MHTBA’s goals to strengthen computer science literacy in K-12 education and grow apprenticeship programs across the state. According to the data, only 29 percent of intern and apprentice positions posted in Q4 were filled. Initiatives seeking to boost these numbers could help populate the pipeline of local talent available in Montana.
Of particular interest, however, were correlations between the rate at which positions were filled and the seniority of the position. Montana companies are most successful at filling their entry-level positions but encounter increasing difficulty in filling more senior level positions. According to the data, 70 percent of entry-level positions in the portal were filled during Q4, but only 52 percent of mid-level positions and 29 percent of senior-level positions. Of the 10 C-suite positions posted in the portal during Q4, 40 percent were filled by the end of the quarter.
This data aligns with a conversation at a recent Montana High Tech Business Alliance roundtable in Missoula where member companies spoke about the difficulty of finding senior level talent to the state.
“Nearly everyone in the room has to go out-of-state to find senior-level talent,” said Jann Butler, VP of People at onX, who was herself recruited from the Seattle area where she held senior HR positions for companies like Amazon and Microsoft.
The high quality of life and exciting growth in the tech ecosystem are huge draws for new talent to the state. Not only that, but the tech and manufacturing industries in Montana pay twice the median wage of other industries in the state. According to the 2018 survey, wages in this sector have been increasing five percent each year. Companies at the Missoula roundtable recognized that organizations such as Montana Ambassadors and university alumni associations can be channels to reach former Montana residents who want to move back.
This analysis is based on a relatively small sample of open tech and manufacturing positions in Montana and of companies with available jobs, but it does offer some useful insights regarding the state of tech and manufacturing hiring in Montana. We hope that this information also shows our members the value of our jobs portal and encourages more companies to post positions.
As the tech sector continues its rapid growth, we aim for the MHTBA jobs portal to serve as a valuable tool for businesses recruiting talent and for workers seeking opportunities in Montana. If you would like to upload a career opportunity to the portal, please visit our website where you can post a job using your member account. If you are not a member but would still like to take advantage of the portal, you may submit a job post for a fee.
If you or someone you know would like to receive a weekly email with new positions on our jobs board, you can subscribe here.
About the Authors: Originally from Kalispell, Noah Hill will graduate from the University of Montana in May with a degree in microbiology and plans to attend law school. In his free time, Noah enjoys rafting, fishing, hiking, and reading a good book.
Christina Quick Henderson is Executive Director of the Montana High Tech Business Alliance and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship, management and organizational behavior in the College of Business at the University of Montana.
Katy Spence is the Communications Director for the Montana High Tech Business Alliance. She worked previously with the Missoula Current and Treesource, and has an Environmental Journalism Master’s Degree from the University of Montana.
About the Publisher: Launched in 2014, the Montana High Tech Business Alliance is an nonpartisan nonprofit association of more than 350 high tech and manufacturing companies and affiliates creating high-paying jobs in Montana. For more information, visit MTHighTech.org or subscribe to our biweekly newsletter.