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January 18, 2024

One year later: How early tech talent has adapted to Big Tech layoffs

Tech majors cast a wider net in their job search in 2023

Over the past year, there’s been a fundamental shift in the way early-career tech talent approaches the job search. High-profile layoffs have shaken confidence in both big-name tech companies and fast-growing startups. At the same time, general economic uncertainty has pushed students and new grads to prioritize factors like job stability and benefits as they launch their careers.

Although the dust is far from settled, it’s clear the tech contraction has redefined what an “ideal” career path looks like for a tech major. Our data reveals 4 key trends to watch in 2024 and beyond:

  1. Internet and software companies have significantly slowed early-career hiring. Job postings by internet and software companies on Handshake dropped steeply in 2022 and hovered around 40% of 2021 volume last year.
  2. Tech majors are shifting their applications to other industries. The share of tech majors’ job applications submitted to internet and software companies dropped by more than 30% between November 2021 and September 2023, while the share of applications submitted to government jobs more than doubled.
  3. Students from underrepresented backgrounds are increasingly likely to major in tech, but are less likely to apply to certain industries. Women tech majors submit fewer applications to tech companies, and Black and Latine tech majors are less likely to apply to roles in finance and consulting.
  4. Locations outside traditional tech “hubs” are attracting more tech applicants. Tech majors submitted a larger share of their applications to states like Michigan, Ohio, and Florida in 2023.

Internet and software companies have significantly slowed early-career hiring

Job postings by internet and software companies on Handshake dropped steeply in 2022, and hovered around 40% of 2021 volume in 2023. Internet and software companies have slowed early-career hiring for both full-time tech roles (e.g., software engineers, data scientists, etc.) and non-tech roles (e.g., marketing and communications, HR, etc.).

Tech majors are shifting their applications to industries outside internet and software

As tech students and new grads witness waves of layoffs and declining job availability in internet and software, they’re submitting fewer applications to internet and software companies. In November 2021, more than 40% of job applications from tech majors on Handshake were to roles at internet and software companies. As of September 2023, that number had declined to just 25%.

Other industries have seen a significant increase in applications from tech majors as a result of this trend. In particular, the share of tech majors’ job applications submitted to government employers more than doubled between 2021 and 2023. Caitlin Gandhi, co-founder of the U.S. Digital Corps—a fully-paid government fellowship for grads with in-demand tech skill sets—shared that the program has now brought on about 90 fellows and is active in 19 different federal agencies. “We are really in need of product managers and designers, and software engineers to help us build things from the ground up,” Gandhi shared at a recent Handshake event. “We’re looking closely at AI-enabling skill sets, such as data scraping and data management, to be ready for that space. Government is broad, so all of these tech skills are in high demand.”

Tech companies outside internet and software—including semiconductor and computer hardware companies, telecommunications, and IT and technical consulting firms—are also receiving a larger share of tech majors’ applications. And retail and consumer goods companies like Loréal are making a concerted effort to attract more early-career tech talent.

Manufacturing is another industry that's benefited as tech students turn away from internet and software. Roberto Guillen, who recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, was “beyond excited” to join General Motors as a software engineer. “With technology growing to touch every aspect of our lives and a personal interest in cars, I extended my search to the automotive industry,” he says. “I have had a great experience so far, working on cutting edge software and learning a lot.”

As pronounced as these trends are for four-year degree students, the shift away from internet and software companies is even more dramatic for tech students at community colleges. Over the past year, the share of these students’ applications submitted to internet and software companies has dropped from well over 30% to about 19%. Community college tech students were more than two and a half times as likely to apply to government employers in 2023 compared to 2022, and non-software tech companies now command the largest share of these students’ applications at nearly 25%.

Students from underrepresented backgrounds are increasingly likely to major in tech, but are less likely to apply to certain industries

Appealing to diverse tech talent is crucial for employers across industries now, and will only become more important in the future. In particular, women, Black, and Latine students have historically been underrepresented in tech, but are increasingly likely to pursue tech careers. More than 6% of women in the Class of 2025 are majoring in tech fields, a significant uptick from 4.5% in the Class of 2021. And more than 10% of Black and Latine students are pursuing these majors, compared to around 9% of white students.

Some industries have been more successful than others in attracting tech students and new grads from historically underrepresented backgrounds. When it comes to gender diversity, tech companies—especially those in internet and software—still have work to do; women tech majors submitted only about 28% of their applications to internet and software companies in 2023, compared to about 33% for men majoring in tech. In contrast, women tech majors were more likely than men to submit applications to finance, management consulting, government, healthcare, and research and education companies.

Tech companies are faring somewhat better when it comes to attracting applicants from underrepresented racial backgrounds. This is particularly true for tech companies outside internet and software—Black and Latine tech students were slightly more likely than white and Asian students to apply to non-software tech companies in 2023. Government, manufacturing, and healthcare employers also attracted higher shares of Black and Latine tech students’ applications. However, Black and Latine tech students were much less likely than their white and Asian peers to apply to finance and management consulting roles, indicating that those industries can do more to appeal to these demographics.

Kemi Omisore, Director of the Center for Career & Professional Success at Howard University (a historically Black university in Washington, D.C.), has observed tech students exploring a wider range of opportunities over the past year. “Our students are still interested in big software companies, but they’re considering other professions, too,” she says. “Many of them are exploring careers in the environmental science sector, the world of cybersecurity, AI, data analytics and the government sector. Students are also courageously betting on themselves and testing the waters as entrepreneurs.

Locations outside traditional tech hubs are attracting more tech applicants

The share of tech majors’ applications submitted to jobs in California, Washington, Texas, and New York has dropped significantly over the past year, while states like Idaho, Michigan, and Ohio have gained share. The growth in applications to states outside traditional tech hubs has been largely driven by applications to non-software tech employers, particularly IT companies, as well as government employers.

Kacey Gavin, a junior at Washington State University, was excited to secure an internship outside of a traditional tech hub. “Given the increasing cost of living in states like California, New York, and my home state of Washington, I'm excited to see companies doing things that align with my career path in other states like Idaho and Michigan with a lower cost of living,” she says. Kacey has now completed internships with two companies in Idaho, Micron Technology and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, and hopes to be considered for a full-time job with one or both employers after graduation.

Tomorrow’s tech careers will look different—and that’s a good thing

Just a few years ago, the “dream job” for most tech majors was at a big-name software company in a coastal tech hub. That’s no longer the case. The events of the past year have pushed tech students and new grads to consider a wider range of opportunities, and employers in other industries are developing successful playbooks to recruit this in-demand talent. Even as hiring in internet and software recovers, early-career tech talent is likely to remain more aware of and open to the other options available to them. That’s great news for employers in government, manufacturing, and other sectors that need more qualified tech hires—and it’s great news for the millions of tech majors who are discovering new interests and possibilities.

Methodology

Application trends are based on applications to full-time jobs on the Handshake platform between November 1, 2020 and October 31, 2023. Unless otherwise noted, year-over-year comparisons compare the period between November 1 and October 31 to the same period the prior year.

Tech majors include bachelor's degree and community college students majoring in the following fields: Business Analytics, Computer Engineering, Computer Engineering Technologies & Technicians, Computer Programming, Computer Science, Computer Systems Networking & Telecommunications, Cyber Security, Data Mining, Data Science, Information Systems Management, Mathematics, Software Design, Statistics, User Experience/Social Computing

Industry classifications are based on employer self-identification on the Handshake platform. Industry groupings are defined as follows: Non-Software Tech = Information Technology, Scientific and Technical Consulting, Electronic & Computer Hardware, Telecommunications, Computer Networking; Finance = Investment / Portfolio Management, Investment Banking, Financial Services, Accounting, Commercial Banking & Credit, Insurance; Construction = Engineering & Construction, Construction, Architecture & Planning, Civil Engineering; Energy = Utilities & Renewables, Oil & Gas, Energy; Healthcare & Pharma = Healthcare, Biotech & Life Sciences, Pharmaceuticals; Research & Education = Higher Education, K-12 Education, Other Education, Research; Manufacturing = Manufacturing, Automotive, Medical Devices




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