At Long Island Software & Technology Network, or LISTnet for short, one of the things we often hear from executives is how hard it is to hire the tech people they need. This is true for companies anywhere, but in addition to other challenges, local companies must also deal with the allure of New York City, especially for younger workers.

When it looked like Amazon was heading to our area, most local technology leaders saw it as positive overall. It was an opportunity to attract more attention to our region as a technology hub. One shared concern, though, was that Amazon would be hiring many tech people, potentially making it harder for LI companies to hire the people they needed.

Though Amazon changed its plans, companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are continuing to expand in the City and others will surely follow. As could have been the case with Amazon, this can be a good thing if it helps enhance the growing perception of the New York metro area overall as a technology hub. Hopefully, this will attract more students to area colleges, universities and trade schools, with the net result that some of those students choose to live and work on the Island.

For Long Island schools to attract those students, they need to be aware of local companies and the potential opportunities they have. Companies can build this awareness by engaging with students at LI colleges, universities and trade schools. The best time to do this is while the students are still in school. Companies that start their recruiting efforts only after graduation may find that a student took a job with a company they did an internship with or a company that visited campus when that student was a sophomore.

Companies can and should look to build relationships with the Island’s students and schools. This includes hiring interns, participating in co-op programs, or externships. This also includes taking opportunities to participate in events and speak at these schools when possible.

Part of what we do at LISTnet is help our member companies make these types of connections with the local schools. We also help provide feedback to the schools from our members, about what they are looking for in graduates. The overall goal is to create two-way connections between business and academia that can help to grow the Long Island tech ecosystem.

Paul Trapani is the president of LISTnet

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