Systems design jobs up by half

Competition for top talent fierce in state; 3,300 hired in first seven months of year

The technology sector has added 3,300 computer engineering and Web development jobs in Massachusetts since the beginning of this year, 50 percent more than in the same period in 2011, thanks largely to hiring sprees at software giants such as the Internet architecture company Akamai Technologies Inc.

For the seven months through July, Massachusetts had the country’s sixth-highest level of job creation in the segment of the state’s innovation economy designated as computer systems design and related services, according to
, a New York-based technology career site that analyzed monthly federal job growth numbers.

The state, which also ranked sixth in job growth for computer systems design in the first seven months of 2011, trailed Maryland, New York, Virginia, California, and Texas this year.


There are roughly 65,000 computer systems design jobs in Massachusetts, about a quarter of the 270,000 people working in technical and professional services here, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers. Overall, the state’s workforce totals about 3.2 million employees.

Technology is one of the biggest drivers of growth in Massachusetts, helping the state’s economy recover more quickly than other parts of the country, said Michael Goodman, public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. One reason: higher investment in new software to drive down the cost of doing business.

“We have been disproportionately benefiting from this trend because we are the producers of this technology,’’ he said.

Even though the state’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 6.1 percent in July, with employers from all sectors adding just 1,600 jobs — much lower than the monthly average of 9,500 earlier this year — many technology companies can’t hire software engineers fast enough.

Akamai hired 120 people at its Kendall Square location this year and is in the process of filling 100 more positions. Competition to attract engineering talent has become fierce, said Bob Quinn, Akamai’s director of talent acquisition. The company is offering bonuses as high as $6,000, as well as free iPads, Apple laptops, and vacations for employees who refer new hires.


The tech industry “is in this renaissance for growth again, but we are all competing for this top 10 or 15 percent of the market,’’ Quinn said. “We need software engineers who can help us make the Internet work.’’

There are
200 positions open in the local operations of Nuance Communications Inc., the Burlington speech-recognition software company.

“We have accelerated an aggressive hiring agenda, where the number of opportunities at Nuance has nearly doubled since earlier this year,’’ said spokesman Richard Mack. “Broad interest in voice technologies has created incredible hiring opportunities.’’

The growth in software and Internet-related jobs has not prevented cuts.
Next door to Nuance, for example, the Finnish cellphone maker Nokia Corp., which has struggled amid competition from smartphone makers such as Apple Inc., is laying off 53 employees.

“This is part of a larger series of planned actions aimed at sharpening our strategy, improving our operating model, and returning the company to profitable growth,’’ said Chris Hollis, a Nokia spokesman.

Prospectiv/Eversave, an online marketing company in Wakefield, notified the state that it laid off 51 employees this month. Overall, Massachusetts companies cut 670 technology jobs in the first half of the year, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

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