Tuesday, July 03, 2012

High-Tech Talent Trade

Northeastern University is ahead of the curve. Too far, in my estimation. A glimpse into the future of the Talent Economy:

Seattle imports high-tech talent, and Boston exports. So it makes sense that one of the big players in Boston’s competitive higher education market, Northeastern University, would see a new niche opening up across the country, where it can help feed a fast-growing high-tech cluster with more brainpower.

Northeastern, a 114-year-old private institution with 20,500 full-time students, has been working for almost two years to build out a network of regional graduate schools in underserved higher education markets, starting with Charlotte, NC and Seattle. No one would call Boston “underserved” by higher education, as it’s the home of Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Boston College, Tufts University and more. But in Seattle, where companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and others can’t seem to get enough people with advanced degrees in high-tech disciplines, Northeastern has spotted a void it thinks it can fill.

Emphasis added. Importing high-tech talent is a hallmark of the Innovation Economy. Producing that talent defines the Talent Economy. Talent production and superstar faculty are agglomerating. Whereas talent is trickling down the urban hierarchy. From this perspective, the transition looks stark.

Northeastern is jumping ahead to the decline of the Talent Economy, when talent production will diffuse to lower cost markets. I doubt the described business model will work now. Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and others need to move where the talent is produced. The labor market is getting thick in places such as East Liberty in Pittsburgh.


Dave said...

So, if I'm understanding your thinking, which I may not be, young people coming out of college are not tied down by underwater housing because they don't own houses, so they are still free to pick up and leave for their "dream locale", New York, Seattle, SF, whatever. But because high tech and finance are on the downside of their historic economic curves, the companies located in those global cities can no longer pay the kind of salary required to live decently in those places, thus "need to move" to cheaper places that produce talent, such as Pittsburgh. But if this is true, shouldn't that really be that they "want to move" to those places? That is, they would rather have that talent "stuck in Pittsburgh", so they can take advantage of the talent more cheaply. But why is the talent going to stay if they're not part of the "stuck economy"? Are you suggesting that Google and Amazon showing up with jobs in Pittsburgh will induce top grads to stay, even if their dream city is NYC? Or are you suggesting that Google, et al will be taking advantage of a "diaspora" workforce, i.e. those who left for NYC, got tired of it, and came back while still fairly young? Or am I missing the point completely?

Jim Russell said...

The default assumption is that talent won't migrate. More and more places are effectively competing for the talent that will migrate. Few places are adept at meeting local demand for talent without inmigration.

Pittsburgh's talent production engine is without peer, anywhere in the world. The pipeline is locally oriented. It's easier to move there than it is to compete with a growing number of places for talent.

Matthew Hall said...

What is the "talent economy"?

Jim Russell said...

It is what I think comes after the Innovation/Knowledge Economy, which looks to be in decline.

Matthew Hall said...

What do you imagine comes after innovation and knowledge? Are you suggesting an 'end of the enlightenment and scientific revolution' moment much as Fukuyama's "end of history"?

Jim Russell said...

What do you imagine comes after innovation and knowledge?

Talent production. That's my guess.