Innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit have led to some of the 21st century’s greatest companies, products and services. Business leaders have seen the power that a single out-of-the-box idea has to transform an organization — or even an industry — in a short amount of time, and now corporate innovation programs have become a central business practice. Most of today’s graduates and CEOs probably didn’t think they’d be spending their careers hunting for unicorns, but that’s increasingly the task of today’s leaders. The market is hungry for the next billion dollar idea that will make a company an overnight success, or keep it relevant in a technology-driven economy.
To compete, companies should always be looking for new and innovative ways to engage customers and improve products and services. Smart leaders know this responsibility can’t rest solely in the C-Suite. Harnessing the power of a diverse workforce and unique employee perspectives is one of the surest ways to generate out-of-the-box ideas, services and products that set a company apart. This makes workforce development, and having an aggressive strategy in place to recruit, develop and retain a highly skilled workforce that can stay ahead of the curve, extremely critical.
The Tech Skills Gap
The rapid advancement of technology within corporate America, has led to a new kind of skills gap where employees who are fully-qualified within their field find themselves falling behind due to a lack of technological savvy or drive to innovate within their organization. A recent University of Phoenix survey found that only 37 percent of working U.S. adults consider themselves entrepreneurial within their own positions — also known as “intrapreneurial.”
The tech skills shortage is also deeply impacting information technology professions. The demand for tech-skilled employees is growing far faster than the pool of qualified candidates.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2010 and 2020, computer science careers are projected to grow by more than 22 percent, making it one of the fastest growing occupations during that time period.
The result is that some job seekers feel like their skills are outdated and their contributions to the company are stymied. Employers are consequently frustrated by the skills gaps between employees and the evolving needs of the organization.
A Regional Approach
Cities rely on the strength of their workforce to fuel growth of urban populations, maintain housing prices and to insulate against negative economic impacts. Human capital is arguably the single most important factor in evaluating a city’s resiliency. When looking at cities that have reinvented themselves, Boston tops the list, having transitioned from a dying manufacturing town in the early 1980s to the vibrant information city it is today. Researchers argue this result is, in part, due to the fact that in 2000, half of Bostonians between age 25 and 34 had college degrees.
Educational institutions have an opportunity and obligation to increase the relevance of their degrees by advancing their offerings to meet the needs of employers and job seekers in every community in the United States. Universities are uniquely positioned to assess local market conditions and tailor educational programs to ensure residents have the skills for meaningful careers and that businesses have qualified workforces that keep them in the market. There are several cities across the country working closely with higher education to boost the size and skills of their workforces and improve the labor market for employers, including the new “techtopia” of Las Vegas.
Las Vegas, a New Tech Hub?
Though most commonly known for its party culture and the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” mentality, Las Vegas is quickly becoming an IT-centric economy. Clark County is home to more than 37,000 IT professionals, making up nearly 70 percent of the total IT workforce in Nevada according to the Nevada Government Office of Economic Development. Between 2014 and 2023, the number of jobs in that state is expected to grow by more than 10 percent.
The desert city has also been a launch pad for some of the most well-known, award-winning gadgets and technological advances introduced to the global stage in recent years. Las Vegas is home to the world’s largest trade show and platform for innovation, The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), renowned for introducing some of today’s most revolutionary products, including smartphones, wearable tech devices and Wi-Fi enabled appliances.
Zappos.com, the largest online shoe store, found its home in the heart of the city and has even made inroads to revitalize downtown Las Vegas with the Downtown Project, an initiative to take the city from good to great and transform it into a hub for inspiration, entrepreneurism, creativity and innovation. SuperNAP, one of the world’s most advanced technology ecosystems is also housed in Las Vegas and is an active partner in the city’s tech revitalization.
Igniting Innovation at RedFlint
Las Vegas is poised to be a major player when it comes to innovation and business, and that is why University of Phoenix is investing in the city of Las Vegas to provide an innovation resource that incubates and accelerates the ideas that solve today’s business challenges.
RedFlint, an innovation experience center, will immerse visitors in an experiential, hands-on learning environment that will foster the skills and strategy development necessary to revolutionize a business and industry from the inside out. University of Phoenix College of Information Systems & Technology, University of Phoenix School of Business and Iron Yard Ventures are working to satisfy the needs of the entire business spectrum using real problems facing communities and businesses to help cultivate the creative thinking that will lead to tomorrow’s business solutions.
RedFlint helps employees looking to update their technology skill sets and get their hands on the latest software and technologies; new businesses looking for entrepreneurial support; and established businesses looking to kick-start innovation and development programs. Additionally, the center will provide space and training events to assist local nonprofits, K-12 educators, small businesses and other community organizations.
This open-concept center, situated in the Bank of America Plaza building in downtown Las Vegas, will provide businesses and the community the opportunity to experiment with new technologies and business angles to create solutions to local business, industry and city challenges. However, the RedFlint team aims to help businesses in a way that will be felt far beyond the bright lights of Las Vegas.
It only made sense to open RedFlint in a city that is as forward thinking as the center will be. The RedFlint center will serve as a dynamic innovation ecosystem for the Las Vegas business community to experience and test new concepts, programs and technology.
RedFlint Innovation Center will hold an open house on October 13, 2016.