MHTA President and CEO Jeff Tollefson

MHTA President and CEO Jeff Tollefson is one of several tech leaders speaking at the second annual TechTalent conference on Thurs., Feb. 27. This year’s TechTalent event promises to help attendees think about how we inspire people to enter STEM careers, how we more effectively hire them now and in the future, and how we retain them at our companies and here in Minnesota. He gives us a preview of the event in this Q&A:


Jeff, how will this year’s event help tech and business leaders who are aiming to retain and grow their workforce?
Tollefson: While last year’s inaugural TechTalent event helped to frame our tech workforce challenges and highlighted a number of community organizations working to increase our supply of skilled IT talent, this year’s event will be more focused on sharing innovative ideas and actionable solutions currently being put into practice at companies like Target, Best Buy, SPS Commerce, and Calabrio, among others.  The opportunity to learn from peers at other Minnesota companies can be of real value to anyone facing similar challenges in cultivating, developing, and retaining talent at their own organizations.  We will still dig into the tech talent supply/demand dynamics impacting the State of Minnesota, but the real value will be in peer-to-peer sharing and learning.

How does Minnesota compare to the nation when it comes to our tech talent pipeline?
Tollefson: We are doing well, but need to do better.  According to CompTIA’s 2019 Cyberstates report, Minnesota ranks 17th in net tech employment with 250,991 people in tech occupations/tech industry jobs, a 2% increase over the prior year.  Tech employment is now 8.2% of our overall Minnesota workforce with unemployment in key tech sectors virtually zero.  But as we look ahead, the gap between business demand for skilled tech talent and available supply is expected to widen, creating a talent shortage that will hamper future economic growth if we don’t address these challenges now.  This tech talent gap is not unique to Minnesota, but may be felt more profoundly here for a variety of reasons.

Good to know we’re not alone! What are some of our unique challenges, and how will TechTalent tackle them?
Tollefson: Many of Minnesota’s future workforce challenges are based on changing demographics and uneven labor force participation.  With baby boomers leaving the tech workforce in large numbers over the next ten years, we need to think differently as to how we inspire our next generation to pursue STEM careers.  We need to think differently as to how we engage historically overlooked and untapped sources of talent, how we attract new talent to Minnesota, and how we develop and retain talent once onboard.  But as one might expect, our Minnesota business community has risen to the challenge and are developing new programs and initiatives to address these important workforce issues.  At the TechTalent event, we will learn of eight such initiatives from leading tech employers in the Twin Cities community.

Companies are developing diversity and inclusion initiatives to improve business results, attract more talent and ensure retention and engagement of their existing workforce. How are these efforts contributing to the overall health of our economy and technology ecosystem?
Tollefson: In a widely cited 2018 study by McKinsey, research showed that companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. But diversity alone will not move a business forward—inclusion is an integral part. Even if a room is vastly diverse, if those unique perspectives aren’t being heard and if those individuals do not feel a sense of belonging, the impact is lost.  While many companies are making solid strides towards creating the equitable and inclusive work cultures that can help close some of the embarrassing economic opportunity and achievement gaps that exist in the Twin Cities, we still have a long way to go and will be addressing these important issues at our February 27th event.

How will MHTA help the Minnesota tech community understand and fill our talent pipeline beyond the TechTalent event?
Tollefson: Great question. We know technology-driven businesses achieve the greatest success when they have access to exceptional talent, are supported by tech-friendly public policy, and are part of an innovative, inclusive technology ecosystem. The MHTA works on behalf of its members and the larger community to nurture each of these attributes so that tech-driven companies, professionals, and communities can thrive.  A top priority is helping Minnesota companies keep their tech talent pipelines healthy and full, which is why our work will not stop after the TechTalent event – just continue.  We will convene community stakeholders to address key workforce issues, advocate for smart public policies, and share relevant data and best practices as we work to create the more vibrant and inclusive tech community we all aspire to see.


Meet the speakers, ask questions and add your voice to Minnesota’s workforce conversation! Join us at TechTalent at Target Field on Feb 27.