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Utah Business

Tech workers across the country are leaving the comforts of full-time employement for the flexibility found in temp work. But is it worth it?

Tech Workers Are Ditching Full-Time Employment

Job seekers in the tech industry are watching their opportunities multiply in 2019 as businesses expand to hire more temporary and contract workers. These temp tech jobs are not yet as common in Utah as they are in Silicon Valley and other parts of the world — essentially wherever Google has its larger operations located — but recent surveys suggest an increase in temporary tech sector jobs may soon reach Utah as tech companies embrace new ways of attracting workers.

Temporary and contract employees make up about 2 percent of U.S. workers. The American Staffing Association estimates 17 million people were hired in a temporary or contract position in the U.S. last year. Thirteen percent of staffing employees say they worked on assignment in the fields of engineering, information technology, or science.

With this potential new employment option, should Utah tech workers consider being hired as temps?

Leaving Full-Time Employment

A recent New York Times article questioned whether companies like Google — whose full-time employee count now sits below 50 percent of its total workforce — should grant its 121,000 temps and contractors better workplace privileges.

The article highlights many of the positives and negatives of working as a temp in the tech industry by sharing the story of Mindy Cruz, a tech worker who was given the choice to either keep her current full-time job or accept a new temp position with Google.

According to the article, the temp position offered fewer benefits and lesser pay, but it was Ms. Cruz’ dream to work for Google so she took the risk and accepted Google’s offer.

Ms. Cruz is not the only tech worker eschewing full-time employment in the pursuit of other career goals. A USA Today article highlighted a 2017 MetLife report in which 74 percent of millennials said they were more interested in freelance work than full-time employment.

And it wasn’t just young adults reporting an interest in contract or freelance-style work. 57 percent of Generation X and 43 percent of Baby Boomers answered the same way.

But what researchers found most interesting was that almost a quarter of those surveyed intended to quit their full-time jobs within the next five years to begin freelancing — indicating a real, imminent plan to leave the 40-hour week behind in favor other work.

Between the variable nature of freelance work and the rigid 40-hour work week, some of these “free agent” techies may see temp work as the ultimate compromise. 

Temp Jobs In Tech Are on The Rise 

The tech industry’s increasing interest in temp labor is substantiated by data recently gathered by Staffing Industry Analysts.

An SIA report reveals IT staffing companies experienced 4 percent increases in year-over-year revenue growth over the past two years. With increases this year projected to remain at 4 percent, the report confirms demand for temps in the tech industry is consistent and growing.

Utah also continues to see growth in the tech industry at large. Between 2007 and 2017, Utah’s growth rate was more than double the national average, making Utah the fastest-growing state in the U.S. for the tech industry.

Even organizations in Utah not traditionally seen as “tech companies” are posting job openings for long-term and temporary workers who have tech expertise.

Temp Work Is Full Of Negatives 

The outlook is not entirely positive, however. For those choosing the tech temp path, concerns about being underpaid and the psychological effects of uncertainty associated with accepting a non-permanent work arrangement should not be ignored.

Some job seekers may discover a temp job is the only option they have — especially if a full-time position at a specific company is the ultimate goal.

Ms. Cruz experienced this firsthand. Although her temp position at Google was originally viewed as a necessary step to join the company full-time, it became clear she would not achieve a permanent position due to circumstances involving her manager that were outside her control.

She found herself fulfilling the same roles and performing the same work as her full-time colleagues while receiving fewer benefits and worse pay. Additionally, making things worse, The New York Times reports that Google temps like Ms. Cruz are “not permitted to look at internal job postings or attend company job fairs.”

As new temp tech jobs continue to sweep the industry, employers and workers will have to decide whether extending or accepting temp positions is the right choice for them.

If hiring trends here in Silicon Slopes mirrors those in Silicon Valley, both parties may need to decide soon.

A college professor once asked me to narrow down my vast collection of interests, so I did — by becoming a reporter for the college newspaper where I could still write about all of them. Working for the BYU-Idaho Scroll as an editor, copy editor, and reporter gave me the confidence to stay put and obtain a bachelor’s degree in communication from BYU-Idaho. I also gained valuable experience as an intern at Deseret News where I interviewed many incredible people, including actor and comedian Tim Allen, world-class opera soprano Erin Morley, and MythBusters stars Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara. Discovering new perspectives and reading thoughtful, well-researched journalism has inspired me and driven me forward time and time again.