Jobs in Acadiana’s oil and gas sector may be down, but the region’s burgeoning high-tech industry is in full-hire mode.
“If we could find 10 people today … we’d hire them all,” Kevin Sheen, a vice president at information technology firm Perficient, said at the LITE center on Friday.
Sheen manned a table at the Innov8 Acadiana Technology Career Fair, where hiring managers from nine companies and Louisiana Economic Development talked to hundreds of applicants.
The job fair was included in a three-day Innov8 effort to grow the region’s entrepreneurial class. Innov8 Acadiana 2015 concludes Saturday with a computer coding competition, a host of seminars for entrepreneurs and a product pitch to investors.
Three major tech firms announced in 2014 they were establishing locations in Acadiana and that they’d be hiring: Perficient, which is headquartered in Missouri; Montreal-based CGI; and Enquero Inc., of California. All three companies sought workers Friday.
Many of those jobs will be in Lafayette, where Perficient opened an office last year.
Lafayette’s relatively new high-tech sector is providing the bulk of jobs growth in the region, said Zach Barker, director of Opportunity Machine, which helps nascent companies grow.
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Pete Prados, executive director of Innov8 Acadiana, said the sector is becoming one of Lafayette’s economic foundations, after energy, health care and manufacturing. Prados said some of the applicants Friday came from the oil and gas industry.
The oil and gas industry in Acadiana, and in the rest of the world, has seen huge job losses and financially strapped companies after a prolonged collapse in the price of oil. On Friday afternoon, the December futures price of U.S. benchmark crude was below $41 a barrel.
Prados said state investments in computer-related studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and at South Louisiana Community College is helping sustain the tech growth; Gov. Bobby Jindal in January said Louisiana would honor its 2014 pledge to put up $4.5 million over 10 years to create a computing and informatics department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Jack Godwin, a 22-year-old South Louisiana Community College information technology graduate, had his résumés Friday and was ready to dazzle a future employer. Godwin was looking for a job in network administration.
Eze Onukwube, a software engineer from Nigeria who graduated from UL-Lafayette, works for an oilfield company. He said he wants to work in an industry other than oil and gas.
“The oil companies place more of a premium on offshore engineers, not software engineers,” Onukwube said.
The firms looking for employees Friday ranged from big — Perficient, with hundreds of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue — to small, like Waitr, which designed a smartphone application that offers menus from nearby restaurants and drivers to get dinner to customers before it gets cold.
Waitr co-founder Addison Killebrew said the company, which started in Lake Charles in January, is expanding and needs app developers for Android-operated smartphones, project managers and software engineers.
“And we’re always looking for drivers,” Killebrew said.
Other companies conducting interviews Friday were Cirra Group, Cleargistix, Global Data Systems, Lafayette Utilities System, Louisiana Job Connection, and Schumacher Group.