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January 26, 2022

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State, nation must keep up with growing tech sector

It is with good reason that Nevada serves as host of CES, because the Silver State is on the rise when it comes to tech. For the past two years, Nevada has been the state with the fastest growth of software jobs in the United States.

Software is changing the way companies invest and do business. In the gaming industry, casinos are investing in cutting-edge technology like robotics, virtual and augmented reality, e-sports and artificial intelligence. Some resorts have even begun using artificial intelligence to manage and conserve critical resources such as water.

Today, startups and large tech companies are investing heavily in Nevada’s economy. In fact, recent research has found that Southern Nevada’s most in-demand jobs will be in software development.

The number of software jobs nationwide is up 14.6% since 2014, and across Nevada, jobs in this sector are booming. According to recent research from the nonpartisan organization Software.org, growth in the Nevada tech sector has created over 12,000 direct jobs — more than 45,000 jobs when you include the jobs and industries that software indirectly affects.

And this growth is benefiting the entire state. In 2018, a record number of tech companies opened outposts in the Reno-Sparks region. Major tech companies, including Tesla, Microsoft, Apple and Google, have a presence in Reno, joining the startups that are opening in or relocating to the area. In early 2019, the Milken Institute named Reno one of its top 25 best-performing large cities in the U.S., in part due to new jobs and investment from tech companies.

Better yet, indicators and investment reveal other signs of continued growth in the state. In 2016, software companies devoted $73 million to research and development in Nevada — a commitment that represents 17.7% of all domestic business R&D in the state.

Nevada’s software job growth is the result of two key factors — a flourishing tech sector and transitioning core industries. These factors point to a key need: policies and education to help support this level of job growth. Nevada and the entire country need effective public policies that encourage STEM education, apprenticeships and retraining programs that empower access to tech jobs.

We must help these thriving industries grow, and also work to make sure they are protected. That is why last year the bipartisan Cyber Ready Workforce Act was introduced. This bill would establish a grant program to support the creation and implementation of apprenticeship programs in cybersecurity. Although Nevada has the highest number of software jobs in the nation for the past two years, our country still lacks adequately trained cybersecurity professionals to keep our nation safe from cyberattacks. Legislation like the Cyber Ready Workforce Act will work to meet the demands of a growing cybersecurity industry, while creating good-paying jobs in Nevada and across the country.

In December, the bipartisan, bicameral Teacher Education for Computer Science Act — legislation that would support teachers and schools to educate students in computer science — was introduced. This bill directly addresses our nation’s workforce shortage by training K-12 educators with the skills needed to teach computer science.

Also in December, the bipartisan Building Blocks of STEM Act was signed into law. This bill instructs the National Science Foundation to more equitably allocate funding for STEM research with a focus on early childhood education, and encourages girls to engage and explore computer science.

Today, almost every sector of the economy has an increasing need for software. This development means that new jobs in coding are often tied to other industries such as agriculture, the arts, or sales and commerce. As the number and range of software jobs continue to grow, policies and training are essential to building a homegrown pool of talent to help people take advantage of the benefits these jobs have to offer.

Software and technology jobs will continue to make up more and more of Nevada’s job market as the state’s economy grows and evolves. Economic opportunity related to software jobs is no longer confined to coastal hubs. The future of work is here. And when it comes to software job growth, Nevada is just getting started.

Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., was elected to the Senate in 2018 and previously worked as a computer programmer and software developer. Victoria Espinel is president and CEO of BSA The Software Alliance and president of Software.org: the BSA Foundation.