The tech industry continues to grow at a rapid pace in northern Nevada, with more companies continuing to move to the region. But what do these jobs actually look like? And what kind of wages can workers expect?
Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick reports.
Walking into the Advanced Manufacturing Lab at Truckee Meadows Community College is a lot like entering a giant study hall, only this one is filled with wooden work benches and active circuit boards.
Instructor Andrew Daniels quietly helps students with lab assignments.
TMCC is partnering with Tesla and Panasonic to train a workforce for the Gigafactory east of Sparks. Daniels says that means teaching people how to work with robots, a major shift from traditional factory work.
“You’re replacing those mundane jobs, so now people are being used to troubleshoot the robot systems and anything else in the process," he says. "Then they’re doing things that require thinking, or doing anything other than the same thing over and over and over again.”
One student in the lab is Jose Cardenas, who was laid off when the Kmart distribution center in Sparks closed in 2014. He hopes this training will land him a job at Tesla.
“I was out of a job two-and-a-half years ago, and so I thought I had to go to school to get with a new technology and learn everything, get a better paying job,” he says.
Daniels says there are about 260 students in the advanced manufacturing program, but that’s not enough to keep up with demand.
“The industry here for manufacturing is really hurting for people, so there’s lots of jobs, hundreds of jobs and most of them are fairly well paying, starting out around $15 an hour and going up through whatever, name your price kind of a thing,” he says.
Forty hours a week at $15 an hour comes out to around a $31,000 gross annual salary. And workers need specialized training for those jobs, which can include learning a robotics programming language.
But what about the traditional higher-paying tech jobs, the computer programmers and software engineers?
Marlene Garcia is an account manager with TEK Systems in Reno. She helps employers in IT and telecommunications find those qualified workers. She says those opportunities aren’t as available as people think.
“I think one of the issues that we are having as well, I think maybe it is because of the media where there’s press releases of ‘Hundreds of positions at $50,000 a year.’ But in reality that’s not really true,” she says.
Garcia says most of the entry-level jobs with tech companies right now are hands-on, trade-based positions that often work on construction crews. That means cable technicians, HVAC specialists and electrical engineers.
But she says there are some opportunities for seasoned workers.
“I know here in Reno right now as far as the trends when it comes to hiring needs, you really see a lot of project management, a lot of developers," she says. "However, the developers are more mid- to senior-level.”
Brice Benefiel is the director of recruiting and hiring at Clear Capital, a tech-based real estate valuation company headquartered in Reno. He says there’s still a lack of experienced workers in northern Nevada.
“I usually start my searches locally, but then I have to expand pretty quickly and advertise out there to find people that are willing to or want to move to the Reno area, Lake Tahoe area," he says. "So, I have to cast a wide net to be successful.”
Benefiel says workers in non-tech positions, like in customer support, start out around $15 an hour. But entry-level tech wages range anywhere from $20 an hour up to $150,000 annually. And he sees both pay and jobs continuing to grow.
“I think Reno is on an upward trend of growth," he says. "If you were to project out 10 years, I think you’re going to see more companies move here. I think you’re going to see the companies that are here expand their tech staff. I’m sure we will.”
According to a report from CompTIA, a non-profit IT trade association, Nevada has more than 35,000 people working in tech occupations, with 11,000 of those working directly in the tech industry.
Thousands of those new jobs are entry-level, while the higher paying opportunities are trickling in at a slower rate.