Employment in South Florida's technology sector can be a roller-coaster experience, with workers riding the ups and downs of changing businesses and technologies.
When companies shrink, affecting the local market, it's "a little frustrating sometimes," said David Coddington, vice president of business development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance. "It's just a fast-changing industry," he said.
Just before the recession, the region's employment got a big boost from international technology companies locating here.
Motorola was already in South Florida and in downsizing mode as it moved from two-way radios and cellphones to public safety communication devices and other specialized products. But in 2008, the Chicago-based company still employed 2,500 people in Plantation.
Now the Broward County site is down to several hundred.
Other international technology companies such as BlackBerry, Foxconn and General Dynamics C4, opened offices in Sunrise around 2008. They also have been going through major business changes in recent years that have displaced workers.
But the good news is the jobs lost are starting to be replaced by those at homegrown companies, as well as companies relocating to the area, Coddington said.
Local entrepreneurs have founded companies including 3Cinteractive, Ultimate Software and Citrix Systems that continue to grow and add employment in Broward and southern Palm Beach County. Together, those three companies employ about 2,500 locally.
Meanwhile, employment at many of the tech giants has dwindled.
This past week, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based General Dynamics C4 Systems notified the state it will lay off 56 workers between April 4 and May 30 in Sunrise. Spokeswoman Carol Smith said the company will close the office it opened in 2008. She said it is more cost-effective to deliver the company's communications products from other locations.
In 2012, Google acquired Motorola's mobility business and then announced it would cut 4,000 people from the 20,000 workforce. In Plantation, Motorola's 1,400 employees split into two: Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions.
Today, Mobile Mobility says it has about 200 employees. Moreover, the company will soon be under new ownership. Last month, Google agreed to sell the business to Lenovo, based in Raleigh, N.C.
Motorola Solutions said it still has "several hundred employees" in Plantation. In November, the company sold its building, as well as 78 acres of land, to a private investment firm that plans a multitenant building, said company spokeswoman Tama McWhinney.
But it also recently signed a long-term lease with the new landlord. The lease is "emphasizing our ongoing commitment to the Plantation site," she said.
BlackBerry and FoxConn, both in Sunrise, have been going through their own business challenges. BlackBerry said its staff remains stable. Hong Kong-based FoxConn didn't respond in time for publication.
The job market has been challenging for technology workers, some of whom have had several employers in recent years. Some laid-off technology workers whose skills are very specialized need retraining, recruiters say.
Alex Funkhouser, president of Sherlock Tech Staffing in South Florida, said those with hot IT skills will get snapped up. But others with skills specific to their former employer have skills that are "not very transferable."
Help is available to the unemployed through state grants for free training through CareerSource employment agencies in Broward and Palm Beach County.
Pembroke Pines resident Charles Nye, 55, lost his 17-year technology job in 2012, but soon found new work after updating his skills at PC Professor in Boca Raton. "I was having no luck using my old skills," he said.
Nye took web design and development classes through grant from CareerSource Broward. Now he works for Boca Raton-based Cendyn Corp., a digital marketing firm for the hospitality industry, founded by local entrepreneurs. The classes were "exactly what I needed," he said.
Fernando Pietro, 43, went to PC Professor after losing his technology management job because of budget cuts. Within five months, he completed a course in Microsoft SQL, used for complex databases, and found a new job in Broward.
"The skills really bridged the gap to be re-employed rather quickly in a similar, but slightly different field," he said.
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