Leadership

There is no tech skills crisis, say IT chiefs

There is no widespread skills shortage, says TechRepublic's CIO Jury - but IT workers with business skills are hard to find.

It often claimed we are suffering from an IT skills crisis, with employers struggling to find properly trained and experienced candidates to fill IT roles.

But could it be that the skills crisis is over - or perhaps was a myth to start with? Academics have pointed to a steady unemployment rate - and wages - among IT professionals, which suggests the skills shortage may not be as widespread as is often thought.

And when asked "do you think there is an IT skills crisis?" TechRepublic's exclusive panel of tech leadesr voted 'no' by a margin of seven to five.

For many CIOs it seems that basic IT skills are easily available, even if they report candidates with cutting edge tech skills and business understanding remain in short supply.

Some IT chiefs do still see a general shortage of good candidates: Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic "There is a significant lack of relevant training at all levels. We need more people with practical experience."

And Shaun Beighle, CIO at the International Republican Institute said while there are plenty of candidates, they lack experience and qualifications: "When we post an opening for an IT position, even a senior IT position, we're flooded with the resumes of people whose only work experience includes a coffee shop and perhaps a retail store."

College graduates with unrealistic salary expectations and a lack of real world knowledge are another issue, he said: "Despite going through the gauntlet of getting those degrees, which is very commendable, if you sit them down in from of a server they can't even tell you what a NAT is."

Looking to the future, Michael Spears, CIO at NCCI Holdings, warned there could be trouble ahead, especially when it comes to filling junior roles: "IT enrolment in universities appears to be significantly lower than just five years ago. This tells me the problem ahead lies with entry-level positions."

With the decline in entry level jobs, thanks to automation and the offshoring of some more junior roles to destinations such as India, IT workers have been encouraged to boost their business skills. But it appears this is still an area that many candidates are falling down.

Kelly Bodway, VP of IT Universal Lighting Technologies: "Potential staff members have the technical skills but lack the integration with business skills. We have evolved to this over the last 20 years by focusing on developing the technical skill base but missed the 'so what' portion of the education and skill development."

New technologies including the cloud will mean the skills crisis becomes less of an issue, said Kevin Quealy, director of information services and facilities for Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. "There may be some specific, niche areas of IT that are lacking in skills but overall I think it's not a big issue. On the flip side IT continues to be more streamlined, standardised, and easier for the non-technical professional. This, combined with more cloud service, should decrease the need for professional IT training in a lot of areas."

Rob Neil, head of business change and technology at Ashford Borough Council, said a bigger issue is the perception that most IT jobs are now graduate positions: "The profession does not need to be a 100 per cent graduate profession by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

"Couple that with degree level IT/computing courses concentrating on more commodity areas of the subject (at the expense of theoretical underpinnings) and you end up with a workforce that is skilled in some areas but without the supporting in-depth understanding that is required.

He added: "Don't get me started on the shockingly poor level of report writing and other business skills exhibited by graduates."

Jeff Cannon, IT director of Fire & Life Safety America said it remains hard to find staff with a high level of skills across multiple disciplines.

"More often, I find someone very skilled in programming, or security, or networking, or customer service/helpdesk, exchange, etc, but fewer people that are really good at all of them.  People confuse that with a lack of skillsets.  There's so much to learn, retain and keep up with that today's IT disciplines require a degree of specialization - hence, the push for cloud computing and outsourcing."

He said there is also a shortage of experience: "Just because a person happened to build a 'Hello World' app over the weekend does not qualify him/her as a developer.  Likewise, just because an employee successfully completed bootcamp and passed a Cisco or Microsoft exam doesn't mean he/she will be turned loose on my network."

David Wilson, director of IT Services at Vector CSP put the blame on managers for making bad hiring decisions: "There is a decided lack of IT understanding and knowledge in the administrative and operational branches of companies that can lead to under-hiring of IT talent, or mismanaged IT."

Gavin Megnauth, director of operations and group IT at Morgan Hunt: "There isn't a skills crisis for those organisations that have embraced both outsourcing and offshoring models with regard to how they obtain the skills they need. The supply of IT talent on a global basis is readily available and competitively priced compared to onshore skills.  The supply of either infrastructure provision and management or development expertise is increasingly becoming a "utility" to enterprises.

This week's CIO Jury was:

  • Alan Bawden, IT and operations director, the JM Group
  • Shaun Beighle CIO, International Republican Institute
  • Kelly Bodway, VP IT, Universal Lighting Technologies
  • Jeff Cannon, IT director of Fire & Life Safety America
  • Richard Storey, head of IT, Guys and St Thomas Hospital.
  • Neil Harvey, IT director, Sindlesham Court
  • Gavin Megnauth, director of operations & group IT Morgan Hunt
  • Rob Neil, head of business change & technology, Ashford Borough Council
  • Kevin Quealy, director of information services and facilities, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia
  • Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
  • Michael Spears, CIO, NCCI Holdings
  • David Wilson, director of IT services, Vector CSP

The CIO Jury is composed of the first 12 members of the CIO Jury pool to respond, but tech chiefs who didn't make into the first 12 still made their opinions heard. While the majority of CIOs rejected the idea of a general skills crisis, many saw a shortage of top candidates.

Brian Wells, associate CIO at Penn Medicine said the issue was "especially acute" in the healthcare IT arena with the significant investment being made by the federal government to encourage broad adoption and meaningful use of electronic medical records.

Tim Stiles, CIO at Bremerton Housing Authority, said: "Sure, we have mechanics that specialize in their niche trade; however, we're losing our holistic thinkers, those big picture people who possess sufficient breadth of skills to tie it all together. This is, in fact, a crisis in our industry."

Adam Gerrard, CTO at Laterooms.com said: "There may be a lot of people that have worked, or do work in IT today, but there is a very limited pool of highly talented IT professionals with experience working in a global context."

Afonso Caetano, CIO at J. Macêdo in Brazil pointed out that the issue varies around the globe: "In developing countries it is more serious, because the demand for IT professionals grows regardless of IT skills crisis that really exists."

Some CIOs suggested some potential routes out of the IT skills problem.

Graham Benson, IT director at M and M Direct: "The problem is we create a vicious circle i.e. we under-invest in our people, as we are scared that if they are fully trained/qualified, they are more likely to leave - they then leave anyway, so we under-invest even more and the cycle starts again."

He added: "How about we fully invest in people, with 'golden handcuffs' (partial repayment of training fees that scales down over time) if they depart before we, the employers, have had full value from the investment we have made in them. This is a 'win-win' scenario as we have motivated team members who see a future with us and/or outside of our organisation."

Ibukun Adebayo, director of IT at Turning Point said there is a misalignment between many business leaders' understanding of what they need from IT professionals, and many IT professionals' understanding of what skills they need to obtain to meet those needs.

"To resolve the IT skills crisis going forward, academic leaders need to work with IT leaders to understand what IT skills are perceived to be lacking in the IT professionals who remain unemployed and indeed what skills we envision are needed for the future, and start updating potentially outdated IT curricula to include the business skills needed by IT professionals for now and for the future."

Matthew Oakley, group head of IT at Schroders, said: "The skills issue is about relevant technology experience married to business knowledge. We fill our roles with what we can find - but usually wish we could find better," and added: "The result is reduced productivity, reduced opportunity from our IT investment and this dents UK PLC".

Meanwhile Scott C Smith, director of technology at 32Ten Studios, said: "Hiring is difficult and learning what applicants really know is difficult. We have found that internet searching has become a crutch for so many and even embolden some applicants to say that they have skill X, because they are confident that they can heavily supplement their existing experience with a quick internet search."

Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT decision-makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should, then get in contact.

Either click the Contact link below or email me, steve dot ranger at cbs dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

73 comments
jcasc535
jcasc535

Who has the EQ & "Business Acumen" to think people who have gone through extensive training (and even much experience in many cases) are going to settle for the "TCL" formula. We all know it comes down to economics 101. Our standard of living is being sacrificed by those who are empowered to run matters at a "higher" C-Level, where the "smile & yes " proportions to the shareholder are of higher priority than "Bits & Bytes" ... eg. From my own experience I saw a gentleman being fired after getting his MSCE and requesting for an "upward mobility" initiative.... Is it any wonder that we as a society are crumbling with all this "economics & business" experts running the gauntlet. Japan was successfully built by engineers and now crumbling under "business" , there I say "improvisation" ... until then "Speed up Mr. EJ Smith we need to get this RMS Ship...well because it's unsinkable."

Fahim@sickkids
Fahim@sickkids

I totally agree with the fact that Business skills are very much needed. And I do not think i can add something new to what already been said...by almost everyone... however i want to scream out loud and say: Dear "HR/Recruiters/Mr. Manager with Power".. Please get real, PLEASE.. sometime?... Hiring is what HR/Recruiters/managers are involved in. And we know its your 'part of job'...hiring the "right" person is the "better" part of the job. Reading a hiring add with unrealistic requirements only creates a negative vibe about your company... Its a pathetic picture of some Business people lacking general knbowledge about workforce.

peterpan783
peterpan783

I am very glad that I found this article, and I find myself both perplexed and intrigued about the opinions from these top IT Executives... Just before I write my comments, I would like to summarize it like this: the opinions below only show me the significant expectations divorce between these IT managers and their prospective employees. ------------- "Mike Roberts, IT director at The London Clinic There is a significant lack of relevant training at all levels. We need more people with practical experience. Training at all levels "to be relevant" HAS to be linked to real-world scenarios, real companies, real production environments. That training can be emulated in a school lab, but for it to be really effective it has to be further improved with real hands-on experience on the field. So, it's the companies that have created the vicious circle: they expect candidates with extensive experience in a multitude of fields, but they expect that such "relevant training" will fall from sky. Recent IT college graduates who had the academic training can't get the jobs because they lack the experience in production, and experience on the job will never come unless you are hired by someone. A vicious circle. Hire fresh graduates, and complete their training on-site. As long as every IT company does the same the industry will never have anyone experienced enough. You're simply not allowing it to happen. In other words, they want to eat the fruits without planting the trees. ------------- College graduates with unrealistic salary expectations and a lack of real world knowledge are another issue, he said: Despite going through the gauntlet of getting those degrees, which is very commendable, if you sit them down in from of a server they cant even tell you what a NAT is. IT education only provides the baseline from where to start. Don't expect recent graduates to be proficient at production level. Bringing them up to that level is YOUR job. I would agree on hiring them on lower salary ranges until their skill sets are fully developed, but DO hire them, don't reject them, spend the time and money in developing their skills and stop hoping someone else pays for it. ------------- Dont get me started on the shockingly poor level of report writing and other business skills exhibited by graduates. Yeah, tell me about it, the recent IT college graduate who has spent over $16K in furthering his education, holding a 5 year English Language Bachelor's Degree and 4 years work experience in Public Relations / Customer Services at major hotels, with 2 years real world experience in Network Administration who doesn't even get interview calls. Everyone nowadays seems to expect and complain about "business skills" but the term is vague in itself, and such skills when actually present, are ignored. ------------- More often, I find someone very skilled in programming, or security, or networking, or customer service/helpdesk, exchange, etc, but fewer people that are really good at all of them ... Those are the Jack-of-all-trades and master of none that you expect in your companies, and who eventually end up failing miserably at everything, since they never really mastered anything. An informed IT manager should know that certain IT fields REQUIRE specialization (eg. web designer, programmer, developer, network administrator, Linux Specialist, Windows Server specialist, etc). IT has expanded so dramatically into so many different areas and its such a fast evolving industry that it is practically impossible to be fully proficient and updated at everything at once. A good analogy would be medicine. Everyone would agree that GP would be the "entry level" equivalent. From there, then doctors specialize in specific areas: Ophthalmology, Pediatrics, Cardiology, Oncology, etc. Why can't IT be seen from the same perspective? Why are these managers expecting us to be good at everything at once? Would you trust your newborn baby to a GP? Would you go see an ophthalmologist when your stomach hurts? Specialties exist for a reason, and they need to be remunerated accordingly. Pay each IT professional who took the time to specialize their fair share! It'll be cheaper in the end. ------------- There is a decided lack of IT understanding and knowledge in the administrative and operational branches of companies that can lead to under-hiring of IT talent, or mismanaged IT. Totally agreed. The whole hiring system is a mock. Perfectly trained and competent professionals get rejected for trivial things like a typo in the resume, or wasn't written in the format expected by the HR staff who reviewed it, most likely someone with no clue whatsoever what the skills in that resume mean, or how they are applied. Maybe it'd be more rational to put candidates to the test, hands on assignments, show me what you can do scenarios and cut all the BS and job searching rituals (resume tailoring and constant editing, rhetorical interview questions, the let-me-tell-you-what-they-want-to-hear game), that only wastes our valuable time. I'd rather use all that time playing with a virtual network, doing server cloning and migrations for practice. Something really useful for the real world and for a real job. ------------- The problem is we create a vicious circle i.e. we under-invest in our people, as we are scared that if they are fully trained/qualified, they are more likely to leave - they then leave anyway, so we under-invest even more and the cycle starts again. What a discovery! You have found the hard way that being cheap only leads to more trouble and ends up costing even more in the end. Underinvesting in company workforce can only damage it. I never heard that being cheap had any major advantages in anything, be it a product, service or company. You get what you pay for. If you don't invest in training and skills development you will end up with unprepared, technically disadvantaged, less productive and frustrated workforce. People leaving should not be an honest concern to any company that does their BEST EFFORT to attract and retain talent. Do you? Are you even aware of what would motivate your staff to stay with you? From an opinion like the one above, it's obvious you aren't. If they leave, then it's most likely 99% YOUR fault: did not appreciate them enough, did not PAY them enough, did not recognize them enough. When someone leaves for greener pasture, no doubt the pasture was indeed greener. Stop complaining about neighbor's pastures and start figuring out what is wrong with YOURS, and then people won't leave. Companies who show no loyalty to their employees and treat them like disposable and easily replaceable items should not expect any kind of loyalty back from their staff. ------------- How about we fully invest in people, with golden handcuffs (partial repayment of training fees that scales down over time) if they depart before we, the employers, have had full value from the investment we have made in them. This is a win-win scenario as we have motivated team members who see a future with us and/or outside of our organisation. Similar to the above. You should fully invest in people simply because it is the right thing to do, for them, and for the company. If they depart before you had full value from your "investment" (not really so, it's your responsibility, retraining staff is also part of the costs of running a business), then it is THE COMPANY who's doing something wrong. Employees who feel appreciated at work, who are fairly compensated for their work will never bother looking elsewhere. If someone else offers something better, it's not an employee problem. YOU are the one who's lacking. There is a tendency in the industry to expect candidates to bear all or most of the costs of IT training. Well, guess what, it's very difficult to do such thing without a high salary paying job (coffee shops and restaurants fall outside of the category). Now you are paying the price when they don't have the training you require. Contribute to it, pay your fare share. My solution? Create a new IT world where IT education and production are part of the same system, where students get the formal training at school and can apply it later on a real world concurrent job. And by later, I don't mean 1 year later once school is over. Education and real world hands-on training must happen at the same time. Is there a Microsoft University?, a Cisco University?, any educational institution created, funded or supported in any way by the IT industry? Even if there is, they have still done a lousy job at advertising it, because I don't know. How much money does your company invest in IT education? How many bursaries and grants do you offer to students? Aside from complaining about lack of skills, do you contribute in any way to form such skills from which you will benefit later?

rick.jury
rick.jury

The real crisis for the IT industry in US/europe and other deveoped nations is that its now unsustainable as the majority of the industry happens in the developed world. Its just the same as what happened in manufacturing in the 20th century - the first stage is a shift in production but eventually there is no industry left because the expoertise and careers start at the bottom. If there is no bottom eventually all your real experts and gurus are going to be in the devleoped world too. the reality is IT is cheaper in the developed world and as the internet speeds up and cloud services mature its only going to get worse. how many big corporates in IT now have the 50% or more of their workers in developing nations. How many IT disciplines are there now that there are almonst no entry level jobs left in the industry 1st world country. I say to anyone leaving school planning on going into IT to think pretty hard about that choice because there may not be any 'entry level' for them to enter and if there is their salary will be as low as their friends who decided to work as plumbers and builders.

don.howard
don.howard

at the CIO level. Every CIO I have ever worked with, save one, was a glorified bean counter reporting to the CFO. Their primary function was to control the costs associated with this "nonproductive" operational unit. Their secondary function was to smooth the ruffled feathers of the "knowledge workers" who complain about a lack of support, from the bare-bones IT department, when they have over-written their monthly report (again).

RMSx32767
RMSx32767

Elsewhere I entered into a discussion regarding skill versus tool. It was suggested that programming, networking, etc. are skills (or talents). CoBOL, Python, "C", etc. are tools. If the CIOs have plenty of available candidates with "skills" perhaps those candidates are not in possession of the correct "tools". If that's the case I am sure the proven talent/skill for, let's say programming, would enable a person to quickly learn how to use a new tool.

KyleHall
KyleHall

I was thinking along similar lines to Herlizness. Being an IT person with a lot of business skills, and a curious person, I'm wondering exactly what business skills the CIOs are looking for. ??The article only listed one, report writing. ??Are CIOs wanting their IT people to have: ??- Actual sales experience ??- Face to face customer interaction experience ??- Financial understanding of their IT role ??- Understanding who their customer is and how their IT role effects them ??- Presentation/training/facilitation skills ??- Project management skills ??- Team leadership skills What other business skills am I missing that CIOs might be wanting from their people? Any CIOs want to chip in here?

paul_keys_cea
paul_keys_cea

There appears to be a misconception that IT tech schools will teach a student business skills. Since when? I think the lack of business skills is directly related to two items: 1) By pushing so much on specifc training and certifications, you have created a large group of specialized techies. No business skills are taught in any certification courses - just how to pass an exam. 2) For many years, our company looked for people with the "potential" to master some business skills, and we taught them those (through classes, mentoring, or OJT). In other words, to get the best of both, you have to "grow your own" sometimes. In the current world of instant gratification, nobody wants to wait to develop talent - we need it NOW. You need to assess what you are hring the person to do, and "everything" is not a good answer. I agree with John - who wants to put in years of school and work all hours to make $40K, while being on call? Not realistic.

markov
markov

So many "Entry-level" helpdesk job openings that I see, seem to be asking more for a Senior Network Technician. As a Help Desk person, you should be getting calls/e-mails from people needing help, with their systems. If you can, you talk them thru, over the phone. Maybe you can "Remote" into the problem system, to check/fix things, or show the user the correct way to do something. If it is anything more complex than that .... The whole, remote office, internet connection is down.. More hardware needed on Server .... the problem would be escalated to the Network Technicians. But, on these Job Position openings, you see Required Skills being "Server Infrastructure", Routers, Switches. So, someone who is supposed to be on the phone/pc, most of the day, taking care of logging/fixing, possibly, Local software problems, has to know about how the COMPANY SERVER is put together?? At least, there are many of them, that Do say "be able to escalate to the next help level group". These understand that a Level 1 (or 2) may be able to help with pcs, company supplied utilities, printers, but, may need to call someone else in for Server installation/repair, cabling, migrations, etc.

gkitts
gkitts

The perceived skills gap is not with the IT professionals I have the privilege of working with every day, but with the people who are 'promoted' to manage them (and HR, OMG, HR!). In my many years of work experience it seems those least able to do are those most promoted. Of course this is not to be taken as a generalization as there are some who manage who've walked the walk and talked the talk. And those folks know who they are and we do too! When I first got into IT professionally, Windows Server 2000 was just hitting the market. There was a newspaper (remember those?) job posting for a system admin with 5 years of Windows 2000 experience. I called the HR folks and, very politely, informed them WS 2000 had just recently been released and finding someone with 5 years experience may prove to be difficult. Their response is classic and indicative of using HR to vet IT candidates. They said it was a required minimum and if I wished to submit my resume for the position it would be rejected outright with anything less than 5 years experience. Classic. God bless HR and God bless the manager who's ignorance was proudly displayed for all to see in the ad. Someone having expertise in ALL areas of computing (as one well informed CIO suggests), from desktop, programming, networking, virtualization, to the most high end complex architectures, would require an investment of time and resources on an epic scale. I wonder how many managers and CIO's are willing to invest equally in learning ALL business areas from Accounting, contracts, law, HR, IT, etc.? I think an incredibly small minority. Maybe some of the problem, as well as the solution, is with us, the IT pro. We don't communicate the complexity of the work we do in a way managers understand. There is a huge communication gap and a barrier (real or imagined) between the 'suits' and the 'worker bees.' I know IT pros who, when asked the time, build a clock (losing everyone near them at some point). And I've know others, when asked the time, barely get the hour out before huffing off in contempt of someone who had the audacity to not know the time and who'd probably not understand what they were told anyway. Where's the middle ground? Kindness, openness, understanding, desire to teach and to learn, respect for each others expertise and skill? I don't know. Maybe others far more intelligent than I can help with the answers. Unfortunately the issue is not going away soon, but it will go away when more (i.e. younger) tech savvy managers arrive on the scene who know the language, are comfortable with technology and appreciate the difficulty of managing things behind the curtain. I hope I live to see that day. I do find hope in Mr. Benson's quote: ???The problem is we create a vicious circle i.e. we under-invest in our people, as we are scared that if they are fully trained/qualified, they are more likely to leave - they then leave anyway, so we under-invest even more and the cycle starts again.???

mtndive
mtndive

High level managers think everyone else's job is easy because the see the result of successful labor without seeing or understanding the labor involved. They probably think designing/building an airplane is easy because there are so many airplanes everywhere. IT has it worse because the lack of required raw materials makes it appear as though it takes nothing. They never see they millions of lines of code behind their word processing software - the collective hours spent over decades of coding to create this. They want every employeee to be 'top talent' but, they want to pay them as if they are easily replaceable. By definition, 'top' talent is uncommon. Here is a little snippet of information for CIOs: there is a threshhold in compensation below which skilled and intelligent people no longer enter the profession. How many people formerly in IT and Engineering have left because they earn more money as a realtor, business manager, accountant, lawyer, or an x-ray imaging technician? (etc, etc, etc) (Gee, I really like IT work but, why bother when I can make more money shining shoes.) *pointless name calling follows* "we have mechanics that specialize in their niche trade; however, we???re losing our holistic thinkers, those big picture people who possess sufficient breadth of skills to tie it all together." How much of that is actually your job? Maybe you aren't 'top' CIO talent. "we under-invest in our people, as we are scared that if they are fully trained/qualified, they are more likely to leave", meaning "we want other companies to train them so that we can hire them away, thus having a cost savings for us". Farmers know that their own corn crop depends on the healthy crops of surrounding farmers since their fields pollenate each other. It is in their interest to have neighbors that prosper also. ???To resolve the IT skills crisis going forward, academic leaders need to work with IT leaders to understand what IT skills are perceived to be lacking in the IT professionals who remain unemployed and indeed what skills we envision are needed for the future, and start updating potentially outdated IT curricula to include the business skills needed by IT professionals for now and for the future.??? Brilliant! Why don't you stop waiting for the academics to approach you about it. You are supposed to be the leader here, aren't you?

richard.s
richard.s

Yet again, it sounds as if these organisations have unrealistic expectations about applicants for their often modestly paid jobs: They seem to be expecting applicants who already possess 100% of the knowledge required in their business; but are probably not prepared to pay the rate for such paragons. For entry-level roles, surely these organisations would do far better if they recruited staff who have suitable aptitudes, potential and solid educational foundations... and then trained them? If the new staff are any good - and if they are helped by their new employer - they will quickly learn the other requirements of their new jobs. Some might even learn to spell! BTW. Why worry about people not recognising a TLA, when Wikipedia is only a click away?

tbmay
tbmay

It happens for many reasons. This is going to sound cynical, but, unfortunately, it is true. Most managers honestly don't care if they get "good" IT people. They do like to complain about a non-existant shortage. Ansu and other pointed out the power companies have to deal with this "crisis" if they want to. It's quite simple. But, you see, they have to justify H1B's. There is no crisis. They simply want to foster the perception. Honestly, it's probably time for many of us to figure out a new way to earn a living....while there is still time. I certainly am not ruling out things could change for the better for IT workers, but I simply can't recommend betting your livelihood on it. Unrealistic expectations about IT is human nature, and it's extended in to corporate management. IT workers, for the most part, are between a rock and a hard-place. People DO NOT VALUE what they don't understand, and people don't want to understand. Hard opinion, I know. But I think it needs to be said.

Perry_B.
Perry_B.

Jeff Cannon, IT director of Fire & Life Safety America says, ???More often, I find someone very skilled in programming, or security, or networking, or customer service/helpdesk, exchange, etc, but fewer people that are really good at all of them. People confuse that with a lack of skillsets. There???s so much to learn, retain and keep up with that today???s IT disciplines require a degree of specialization - hence, the push for cloud computing and outsourcing.??? Uh . . . say that again? ???More often, I find someone very skilled in programming, or security, or networking, or customer service/helpdesk, exchange, etc, but fewer people that are really good at all of them. " A few questions. 1 - What criteria is being used to determine "very skilled"? 2 - How many more dissimilar positions/skillsets in IT do really want to lump together for one position 3 - If this "mythical" candidate exist, will the compensation match requested skillset? "People confuse that with a lack of skillsets." By people, is Mr. Canon counting himself or is the definition of "skillsets" different in this case? "There???s so much to learn, retain and keep up with that today???s IT disciplines require a degree of specialization - hence, the push for cloud computing and outsourcing." I almost don't know what to say about this statement. We all know IT has many facets, niches, and even sub-niches that REQUIRES specialization, but I don't think Cloud computing and outsourcing will solve this problem. IF (and we know it is) companies are requesting such staggeringly high and different "skillsets", then it begs to be questioned, does management understand how to build a comparable team of resources with the needed "skillsets" to accomplish the goal? It seems to me that they are the ones that are creating or at least requesting the one-bullet gun. I've sat through my fair share of meetings where a manager is requesting 5 years of programming (note: no specific language was requested), 5 years of DBA experience, 7 years of networking and server experience and 9 years of supervisor experience (whatever that means) and have a budget of $50K for the position . . . How sir (Mr. IT Manager/CIO/Director) are going to pull that off? Oh, I know, cite is as IT skills crisis/shortage . . .

jonrosen
jonrosen

Yes, could easily go point by point. The gist of it is, most of the managerial 'wants' are pipe dreams. Yes, I can see many boot-camp certified people and university kids may have somewhat unreal desires based on what people 'should' or what companies say 'are' the pay scales for XXXXX certification. Now for the rebuttal; If you want people who can do 3 things, get someone who knows one or two, and train them for the others! If you want a higher level position filled. Pay a premium, or train someone to it. That simple. Companies used to do it, now they offshore stupidly, and stupidity.

mullarpa
mullarpa

Yes there is a skills problem, but only if you want to define the problem so narrowly that you need to have done the same job in the same industry with exactly the tools! In my experience I don't think there is a talent problem. Where the real issues are is is with: employers that are risk adverse; recruitment agents that have no idea transferable skills, (assuming they understand the job requirements in the first place); and too many options to import the 'right candidate'. I read recently that IT skills have a half like of around two years. Give that on the job training, or challenging new work that builds capacity approaches zero, here in Australia, when working for most employers, it is no wonder that the workforce lacks marketable skills! It is no wonder that future generations have learned to avoid the industry.

ittechexec
ittechexec

So are we to settle for mediocre and sub-par technical professionals now too? Is the skills shortage at crisis level...I don't know. What I do know is that there are a lot of good techies working for companies and bosses that don't know how to utilize them effectively. So to me, the shortage is with really good technology leaders and IT managers. Because if they are good leaders, they will be able to identify, hire, promote, train, retain, etc high-quality tech talent. I also know that there are many not-so-good technical folks out there (meaning they are either not knowledgeable, not experienced, or not willing to work hard to do a good job for whatever reason). Some of them have great credentials--master's degree and tons of high-level certifications.

dinosorensen
dinosorensen

The great thing about IT is that one can excel in one area and yet be unable to function in another (e.g., Networking vs. Graphic Design vs. Hardware vs. OO programming etc.). One can not be all things. A great tax accounting consultant had poor writing skills, but he wasn't hired for his writing, he was hired to cut tax liabilities by $1.5M. Stop making the technician a sales person. I also noticed the complaint about hiring top talent. That's almost a misunderstanding: TOP talent is *rare*. You have to pay for it. An old friend and his wife are A.I. programmers, probably make $500k. Don't expect them to troubleshoot problems with MS Office products.

jkameleon
jkameleon

> Meanwhile Scott C Smith, director of technology at 32Ten Studios, said: ???Hiring is difficult and learning what applicants really know is difficult. We have found that internet searching has become a crutch for so many and even embolden some applicants to say that they have skill X, because they are confident that they can heavily supplement their existing experience with a quick internet search.??? What's wrong with that? This Scott C Smith character obviously has the mentality of elementary school teacher obsessed by learning by heart. It generally doesn't make sense to engage, specialize, and gain experience in any particular IT fad, because they all go out of fashion in a couple of years. "Cheating" by quick internet searches is therefore quite reasonable. As long as the job gest done, who cares where the necessary information came from. Experience, cheat sheet, paper manual, internet search... doesn't matter.

mpg72770
mpg72770

I know many IT knowledgeable people who simply don't have a reason to learn new skills. Without the "experience" even those who know have to start at helpdesk making 8-10 bucks and hour. If you've worked in IT as long as I have or longer. You know there are plenty of intelligent people who given the chance would learn a new skill on the job in no time. Companies don't want to pay. So they are left crying about how they cant find someone with knowledge. They could have had a trainee or even a few of the other techs at the company learn it before it became critical. So they will hire someone with the same, no experience , from India on H1 to come over and they WILL train him. Seen it.

herlizness
herlizness

The first step in assuring a supply of people with business skills is defining your terms. What are "business skills?" The term means absolutely nothing -- and everything -- at the same time. If managers want particularized skills they're going to need to start thinking, and speaking, in functional, instrumental terms. They need to start saying things like, "candidate should be experienced working with energy supply/demand data and be able to implement all industry standard statistical calculations in a real-time environment." Instead, they put out requirements seeking "business skills" or, at best, "oil and gas experience a plus." And then we have Mr. Cannon, quoted above as seeking people who are "really good at" programming, security, customer service, help desk, Exchange, ETC. Anything else, Jeff? If you should happen to find such a person, are you willing to compensate them for that level of skill and versatility? It's a marketplace; put the right number and the job and you'll find your candidate ... if *you* have the skill to recognize him or her when they arrive in your office. Stop complaining about the employees. Start telling the world what it is you need in terms that people can act on. Collaborate with universities, community colleges and private sector training entities and let them know which skills you need. Train, mentor and develop skills in-house and learn how to retain the people who've you taught.

Justin James
Justin James

A 7-5 decision isn't *that* strong... I wouldn't have used a title like "There is no tech skills crisis, say IT chiefs" which sounds a lot more unanimous than the actual results. Also, many of these executives are at too high of a level to actually understand how hard or easy it is for them to recruit people... or they may not realize that they are having an easy time recruiting because HR is just shoveling warm bodies into empty seats to try to fill the gaps. And as others have pointed out quite well in the thread already, there is a massive gap between what HR/recruiters are calling "requirements" and what real-world candidates have, but that gap isn't necessarily important. I see a lot of people turned down for jobs not because they aren't right for the job, but because the company has an overly inflated sense of what is needed to get it done. At the same time, there *is* a shortage of specialized IT workers in a number of fields... good luck hiring a decent mobile developer, for example. I do agree with some of the sentiments expressed, but I definitely think that the title is more strongly worded than the presented evidence supports, and I feel like many of the comments from those on the panel reflect not the underlying reality, but merely the perceptions as they've been filtered through too many levels of bureaucracy. J.Ja

maciagt
maciagt

Well, I have a finance degree and a book full of certifications, and no one has bitten over the last 5 years, since the down turn. I was an IT manager in a fortune 500 biz. They look at your age and you are immediately red lined. So, there are a lot of folks in this boat, and most have given up. I'm fortunate to be employed as a programmer. As said in the movie, "We have got to work on our communications skills". Later....

jwesleycooper
jwesleycooper

??? when no-one will even give adequate training, much less an "entry level position" where said skills can be developed? That's like buying a bunch of components and expecting them to make themsleves into a computer! Especially now, right after (or during in my opinion) a recession, there are a lot of 20-somethings who are fortunate if they even have low-end retail jobs; so seriously, where do you get off wanting all this experience which is quite unobtainable???

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

This is exactly why I abandoned my point by point rebuttal. It was [i]at least[/i] this long when I pulled the plug. (But I'm damn glad somebody did it anyway. Now if it could be accompanied by a Moe to Larry and Curly face slap on the CIOs, they might get the message)...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Everyone would not agree that GP is entry level, no more than having a broad range of tools / skills means you aren't as good as you could be. Well to be correct you won't be as good as you could be at one of them. Something you need to get straight in your head If you go to an cardiologist with a stomach complaint, a good one will tell you there's nothing wrong with your heart, a poor one will pull it out of your chest, give it a once over and then sew it back in, and charge you per stitch. It's the GP who sends you to the right specialist. In fact one of the big things I see wrong is a preponderance of specialists managed by people without a general knowledge of IT. I'm a programmer, I'm even competent at it, my first lesson in the real world. A program is not always the solution. Once you go to a specialist you've decided a program is the solution. My advice, get someone competent to make that decision, it will save you a lot of money.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

not a suggestion. :D Measuring tools is easy, you can get is done in six seconds or so.... Better still you can use that entire six seconds for something else and just do a buzzword search. Takes all the guess work out of the process. :(

Professor8
Professor8

"They seem to be expecting applicants who already possess 100% of the knowledge required in their business; but are probably not prepared to pay the rate for such paragons." Make that 345% of the knowledge and experience to do the immediate job and project, and compensation at 60%, and you'd be closer to what we're seeing. Often the "requirements" are intentionally set as though they were hiring for what the person would be doing, not immediately after being hired, but after several promotions (Google, for instance, has done this). But -- miracle of miracles -- if they find a cheap, pliant foreign laborer with questionable ethics, willing to work for 58% of the going compensation and who knows and has experience with maybe 40% of what the current job and project actually require, he's a perfect fit! If he knows where and how to buy credentials, all the better. He can obviously grow into the job.

AlphaW
AlphaW

I did not understand Mr. Cannon's comment on how cloud solves the problem of specialization in the IT department and I am in IT senior management. However I do agree with him that people have a narrow view on skill sets, HR has created the expectation with employees that they need to know something about every skillset under the sun. And uneducated managers assume that IT people are interchangeable, a SQL developer is hired to be a DBA and the reverse.

rick.jury
rick.jury

recruiters should be looking for driven, smart open minded people ready to learn who can get on with the people they work with. These people can succeed in any technical job because they have the general principles of IT and the latest technology is a detail you can pick up on the job. Unfortunately they advertise a job requirement as teh exact combo of technical skills the previous incumbent had even though statistics makes it unlikely you will ever find the same tech skill mix in another applicant.

erh7771
erh7771

"So are we to settle for mediocre and sub-par technical professionals now too?" No, just have reasonable expectations of tech professionals that don't make the positions you want to fill so proprietary...that includes good design and hiring people who can do such.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

[quote]"Cheating" by quick internet searches is therefore quite reasonable[/quote] - in fact, I'd say it's vital. In many cases, technology changes so fast it would be entirely *wrong* to rely on rote-learned knowledge. If there is something you don't have recent experience of, it is probably *necessary* to do a quick Internet search to ensure you are about to take the right actions rather than plough ahead and do the wrong thing. It's a sad reflection on the state of the IT industry that 7 out of 12 CIOs are apparently d*&^heads (and I'd wager the other 5 aren't that clever either). But it's also probably not an un-representative sample of business leaders in general - you have only to look at the endless parade of money-wasting business fads like "Toatal Quality Management", "7 Habits", "Six Sigma" etc etc etc to see just how gullible and self-important these idits are.

frances
frances

With that statement. IMO, the problem lies with the RECRUITERS. The recruiters have NO technical background and are trying to screen candidates for technical jobs. I worked as a consultant for a time and did technical interviews for my company. There were MANY occasions where a recruiter was all hopped-up about a candidate that had a sterling resume', but when I did the technical interview to determine whether the candidate truly had knowledge of the skills on their resume' many times I found the candidate was unable to even SPELL the words on their resume' much less demonstrate to me that they did in fact have the background they said they had. Needless to say I had a few recruiters in my company aggravated with me because they wanted this candidate or that candidate based solely on how their resume' read. I was unwilling to recommend someone for a client's project if I felt they couldn't back up their claims. I think the CIOs and CTOs need to pull their heads out of the sand and start looking at their internal corporate structure and see who in their own companies really doesn't have the skills to do their jobs - in this case the recruiters who are trying to screen technical people - and fix that problem. I think fixing the fundamentally broken HR processes in IT will go a long way toward getting many of us with experience back to work. THEN lets see how much of a 'shortage' there is.

DODYONE
DODYONE

WHAT NEW AND UNIQUE SKILLS WOULD YOU EXPECT THE 2ND GENERATION TO BRING WITH THEM? WE HAVE ALREADY WITNESSED THE RISE AND NOW THE COMING RETIREMENTS OF THE FIRST GENERATION OF THE COMPUTER AGE, AND ALSO HAVE WITNESSED PROOF OF WHO IS STILL GREATER THAN EVEN THE NEW MIGHTY ONE,,,,THE COMPUTER..WHEN EVEN THE KING OF THE MOUNTAIN WASNT SAFE WHEN CANCER WAS PROVEN TO STILL BE THE GREATEST OF THEM ALL. AFTER THE ORIGINAL GENERATION WAS NOT REALLY AS NEEDED FOR THEIR ORIGINALITIES AND HIGHER INTELLIGENCES ANYMORE, THE REST WAS SHOWN TO BE IN NEED OF NOT MUCH MORE THAN THE NEXT ERA OF MINIMUM WAGE WORKERS , WHICH WAS EVEN TAKEN AWAY FROM THOSE WHO USED TO FILL IN THE LOWER LEVELS, BECAUSE THE FIRST GENERATION ESTABLISHED FANTASY THAT ITS ALL ONLY FOR GENIUS LEVEL PEOPLE WHO ARE CREATING THE SPACE AGE. LOWER THINKING JOBS WERE SENT AWAY TO INDIA AND THE NEWEST ONES WHO SHOWED THE WILLINGNESS TO BECOME THOSE WHO FILLED THE POSITIONS OF ONES WORKING IN POSITIONS THAT DID NOT NOW HAVE A HIGH NEED FOR ONLY ELITE LITTLE GROUPS OF GENIUSES. MINIMUM WAGE WORKERS IN DEVELOPE THIER OWN STANDARD OF LEVELS AS THE SMALLER PEOPLE PARTICIPATING IN THE IDOL WORSHIPPING OF HIGHER THINKERS THAT THIS COMPUTER WORLD HAS INVENTED.. AND DONT FORGET, THOSE WHO HAVE A LIFETIME MENTALITY OF "WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING ABOUT ANY OF THIS", CANT REALLY BE TOO HIGHLY THOUGHT OF BY THIER OWNSELVES, LET ALONE ANYONE ELSE, NOW CAN THEY...

sissy sue
sissy sue

How can these CIOs expect people to sacrifice their time and money learning a skill when they are not willing to pay them for their knowledge or hire them in the first place? How can they be unwilling to train native employees and then turn around and willingly train people on H1 visas? The people commenting on this article are a heck of a lot smarter than that hypocritical "CIO jury." I think that there is a common-sense crisis at the management level.

peterpan783
peterpan783

Easy to complain about this skill lacking, and that other one, and that the candidate is not a guru in everything, but look at their salary offer. A bus or truck driver makes more money than an IT pro wannabe who took the trouble to invest thousands of dollars of his own money (eg student loans) only to find these "managers" hoping to buy for cheap skillsets that they did not contribute to create.

jkameleon
jkameleon

I would work in management, or have company of my own, employ others, ship jobs to cheap places, bellyache about skill crisis, party, make a good money, play golf, fly around with private jet, and do all the other businessy things business people with business skills are doing.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Simply create strong collaboration programs with universities: The universities get ways of rewarding the dedicated students, the companies get interns and later hires, the students get work experience. It's a tried and true strategy, and it just works. The fact that this is not going on is a clear sign that the skills crisis is not real.

Professor8
Professor8

"company has an overly inflated sense of what is needed to get it done. At the same time, there *is* a shortage of specialized IT workers in a number of fields... good luck hiring a decent mobile developer" Which could be quickly resolved by investing in 2 weeks of training or 2-10 weeks and a pile of books (or equivalent e-books). It used to be "Tell me about some of the programming projects you've worked on", now it's "must have Brand-Lame version 8.2.7 and Brand-Bizarre v. 5.8.7 and Brand-Broken 3.8.7 and Brand-Defective 12.7.375 and ... and ... and ... and ... and ... and ... and Brand-Funky version 4.5.45 ... no, version 4.5.42 simply will not do. Sorry, you're just not 'qualified' (nudge nudge wink wink)".

fhrivers
fhrivers

They look at your resume and experience and say, "We want a top-notch manager, but we only want to spend $50k."

frances
frances

and don't forget about those 50-somethings who have been laid off in IT and can't get a low-end retail job!

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

also it helps to use a paragraph break or two

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Unless that's what we define as business skills: the uncanny ability to get away with murder!

Justin James
Justin James

"Which could be quickly resolved by investing in 2 weeks of training or 2-10 weeks and a pile of books (or equivalent e-books)." I used to feel the same way. What I've come to learn in the workd of software development, is that different types of development require not just "skills" (which can be taught with some training or by reading some books), but also a "mindset" that unfortunately only comes with experience *for most people*. For example, when I dipped my hands into the WP7 development waters, there was the "skill" of XAML, the WP7 SDK, and some of the WP7 patterns (like MVVM). That was easy enough to pick up. But I'm still a shoddy WP7 dev (I do it a few hours a month on my spare time), in no small part because I haven't internalized the lessons from experience that a good mobile developer will... things like what UI metaphors make the most sense in certain situations, the differences between "looks good in the designer on my monitor" and "looks good on an actual phone", some of the ways you approach certain problems, and so on. And that's the stuff that really separates the "OK" developers from "good" and "great", and THAT'S the kind of thing that's sorely lacking. There are also general, foundational mindset issues as well, that many devs, even experienced ones lack, and they feed into things like "how easy is it to maintain this codebase?" and how fast they can track down bugs and so on. J.Ja

jwesleycooper
jwesleycooper

at least had a chance to save up something and have (hopefully) paid into medicare; we haven't even had that option. With the exception of a few very, very few individuals, most young people I know who have "jobs" can't even get more than 12 hours of work a week, and are stuck on minimum wage on top of that. So yeah, I'm sorry that you've got issues too, but don't expect me to fall down weeping for you (especially since it is largely *your* generation that made the dumb mistakes leading to all these issues) /rant

jkameleon
jkameleon

Everything in this world has a price, including most of the people. The members of the ultra rich kazzilionth of percent are the the only exception to this rule. They are too expensive to buy or even bribe. Law making politicians can be pretty expensive as well. Their price varies, usually it's measured in millions The price of law enforcing folks, policemen, judges and such, equals entire life salary plus pension plus risk pay. The price of prostitute equals price of policeman or judge minus risk money plus money for luxuries and trinkets. Explanation: You can buy her only if you marry her. The price of journalist or scientist is errr... kinda negative... sort of. Politicians, policemen and judges are bought for NOT doing what they are supposed to do. Prostitute is bought for doing what she IS supposed to do, while journalists and scientists are sometimes punished for that.

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

But grooming and nurturing your talent to grow into these positions is still a valid option. ...The ridiculous list of requirements isn't always about "wink-wink there's no Americans capable, please give us an H1-B visa" but sometimes it is. Of course, that isn't the only wink and nod in the process, but its the first one.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

In some cases try as you might you keep getting the short end of the stick or "screwed by the system" and when the geniuses ("YOUR" generation) caused that whole dot-com-bomb situation 10 years ago a lot of us were left with little more than a pension fund... but when you are in your forties you can't retire on it, and its value has eroded over the last decade - leaving no cushion. Having had a "chance to pay into medicare" also doesn't help pay the mortgage or put "food on your family". The 50-something has a bigger crisis when out of work than the school-leaver, because the financial commitments that you can't get out of are that much bigger. Granted, more over-50s are better equipped (read: desperate enough) to try something more radical than just looking for a job, and are trying to set up their own businesses - a whole different challenge, the magnitude of which has to be experienced before you can *begin* understand it.

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