IT Employment

Is the tech skills crisis just a myth?

If tech professionals are in such demand, why aren't salaries higher and unemployment lower?

It’s often claimed we are suffering an IT skills crisis of epic proportions: just recently the European Commission announced that by 2015 there will be an estimated shortfall of 700,000 IT professionals across Europe.

And yet, academics have told TechRepublic there is little hard evidence of a shortage of  IT workers, as neither pay levels nor employment rates for IT professionals have reached the levels that might be seen in a skills crisis.

Pay levels for IT workers in the UK over the past eight years or so have not undergone the large shifts you would expect to see in an industry suffering from a skills crisis, says Dr Jonathan Liebenau, reader in Technology Management at the London School of Economics.

"In looking at historic wages we don't see the sort of fluctuations that would support the argument that employers are finding it consistently difficult to find people," he said.

"There's a consistent setting of a baseline where IT people are paid no more than accountants or lower, middle-level employees of a legal office in a large firm, or other such skilled workers."

Ron Hira, associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology and research associate at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, said that pay for IT workers in the US has also risen broadly in line with that of other professional groups.

According to the government’s technology skills body e-skills UK,  the average gross weekly earnings of full time IT and telecoms professionals are 41 per cent more than the UK average wage.

But pay levels for all skilled professions generally track above the average wage, according to the Office for National Statistics, UK degree holders earn an average of £12,000 a year more than the £17,800 earned by non-degree holders - some 67 per cent more. So the higher salaries of IT workers can't necessarily be attributed to high demand.

Employment

Levels of unemployment among IT workers are also not consistent with what would be expected for a profession in high demand, Liebenau said. He said the unemployment rate among IT-skilled people has “very consistently” been half of the general unemployment rate.

"We would expect that IT-skilled personnel who are constantly being chased, according to all the surveys of employer's intentions, would have very, very low unemployment [in relation to general employment levels], especially as systemic unemployment rises. Nevertheless, the unemployment of IT-skilled personnel is tracking at almost 50 per cent of the national unemployment rate," he said.

And despite the warnings of skills shortages in the coming years, each year industry finds enough IT workers to satisfy its demand, Liebenau added.

"If you look at historical surveys of industry they'll always say they haven't got enough people for the future and yet they'll always demonstrate that the year before they found enough people," he said.

In the US, Hira said, unemployment among IT workers is about double that of other college graduates. IT workers also generally take positions that they're offered, he said - not what would be expected in employees' market.

Why a skills shortfall isn't a skills crisis

While the long-term trends may show little evidence of a widespread IT skills shortage, there does appear to be growing demand for particular IT skills, for example application development.

UK IT recruitment specialist Computer People found that demand for .NET/C# developers was more than seven per cent higher in February 2012 than it was in 2011, with increased demand for all developer and IT project manager roles.

Simon Churan, managing director of IT recruiter Certes, said that there had been particular demand for niche skills like PHP coders or software engineers specialising in embedded systems.

But he added there has “always been skill shortages [in IT], even at the peak of the credit crunch”, adding businesses always find a way to meet demand such as retraining staff or, more recently, by acquiring workers made redundant from the public sector.

So what is fueling these claims of a skills crisis? According to the LSE’s Liebenau, one reason is many reports about IT skills demand are based on interviews with the likes of HR directors, who have a “clear incentive” to report that they need higher skilled people, in order that they have a larger talent pool to choose from.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

54 comments
Tech U!
Tech U!

I spent a combined 28 years working as a system engineer for both IBM and ATT. As soon as these companies were given the green light (by the fascist government)  to go off shore for slave labor, they turned pure evil. I counsel all the high school grads to stay away from these companies, they are malevolent towards their workers. You couldn't pay me enough to step back inside one of these hell corporations! In short....they suck!  I hope they never find the right talent and go out of business as they deserve... maybe the "self serving and self preserving" management of these devil corps can fill the skills gap..

Peleg
Peleg

and became "Human Resources". Same staff, same job, just a different name. But what a difference a name makes! Notice: instead of being called "personnel" we are now called "resources". We are looked upon as not fundamentally different than a desk or a computer and we are treated accordingly. I understand that a company needs to make a profit and so sometimes people have to suffer, but there is no appreciation that management's decisions and policies can have a human cost. We have become disposable cogs in a wheel. One buys the best cog he can at the lowest price and then just junks the cog when it no longer meets the need. But we are more than just interchangeable, disposable parts of a machine. Every company has what I refer to as "folklore" which are all of those important details about how the company works, who really does what, who is reliable, who the customers are, what are their particular quirks that never is, that cannot be, documented, but is passed on from employee to employee. The folklore accounts for a large part of how the company functions and succeeds. It is learned nowhere but on the job. When the bottom line for a quarter is improved by dumping a large percentage of your staff, you loose a lot of folklore and the company ultimately suffers. Cogs do not know any folklore. But you can get any cog that you want. It can have every feature that you can think of. The job requirements I have been seeing for years are just like that -- they want every conceivable skill. Only thing they don't understand is that cogs can be built any way you want, but people just don't work that way. I look at the list of requirements and wonder if anyone could have acquired that many skills in just one lifetime. And they are full of the latest buzz-word technologies in areas that are distinct specialties. I'm a software developer, a database applications programmer, but they also often ask, for example, for things like SQL server admin skills or networking experience. You can just take a person to a machine shop and weld on another widget. My answer: I left the 9-5 world and cut out on my own. Only problem is that I'm a geek and marketing and sales (of me) is something I've got no experience with and since it is so unnatural for me, it is hard to do. It is not the same as looking for a job. But it is better than being treated like an inanimate object. If more of us would strike out on our own, I think it would change the picture. Only those who really have the skills and drive would survive, the ranks would thin, and we would finally be able to demand what we are worth. It's been a long rant, but it has taken me 37 years of programming experience to write it.

techrepublic
techrepublic

I've been in IT in the UK for 40 years and there's always been a skills shortage. It is down to just one very simple thing - companies wanting to train people are virtually non-existent. You've only got to go on the jobs websites like totaljobs.com and see that companies are only hiring people with experience. They all seem to assume that the people they want will be trained by someone else and never them. Until we start training people with no experience right from when they leave school, college or university then the so-called skills shortage will always be there. Of course we can always buy in people from abroad. For some unknown reason companies in their countries train people.

waltersokyrko
waltersokyrko

I was a software development manager for 15 years. I hired approximately 50 people (3 or 4 per year). I would have liked to hire great, experienced people who would be productive immediately. My high technology company could meet almost any salary requirement. Unfortunately, I never found the prefect software developer. I made do with the candidates that were available (younger, less knowledgeable, did not know our programming language, did not know the domain) and spent 6 months to a year training them. Yes, I filled my empty positions. No, I never found the perfect candidate; except for internal transfers.

TWBurger
TWBurger

I just checked the local Craig's List for IT jobs. It's usually a good indicator of local demand. There are only about 20 for the last week. Averaging about 3 a day with half being individuals wanting free solutions to technical problems that sound like a lack of RTFM and the others being of the ilk of this gem: "Cumputer programer SEO needed-pro-bono". Should I go back to commercial construction or retry my long ago foray into film extra work? I met Jessica Alba once. She's a very nice person and a pretty woman.

joe
joe

Really interesting comments above. It is the same in the UK. There is another aspect to this here though. Our public sector is enormous and academics, colleges, universities etc use the idea of skills shortages to press for money - to fund academic lifestyles. 10 - 3 day, long holidays, navel contemplation for the greater good of humanity. All that Jazz. Great work if you can get it. The reality is that the grads are left scraping around for work experience while their profs go on to the next sabatical. It's really quite gut churning. We should be advising the youngsters to avoid IT - it is becoming the modern janitorial career.

mikef12
mikef12

In the US, various companies complain about this shortage at least bi-monthly. Wages do not go up much, except perhaps in a few very high demand locations for a few very high pressure industries. The reason is simple: they want the government to permit more visas for people they can hire for less money than they have to pay local talent. I got into what you might call the low end of high end IT training around 2001-2, and the same wailing and gnashing of teeth was going on then, even as IT employment was dropping rapidly. It has never stopped. When someone points out the contradictions, the firms claim, "well the local talent doesn't have the skills we need." The actual fact was that the firms were looking for people with three skill sets, which, combined, were worth $95-100k per year and they wanted to pay those rare birds $50-65k per year, depending on location. But a guy from a developing country with those skills or close to them ( in so far as such birds existed) could be had for $45-55k per year. That's the whole story. Here in the U.S. it is still the same. My guess is, so too with the UK. The screaming and wailing will never cease and the actual, true, core story will never change.

tech
tech

My experience (2 cents worth) I have over 20 years pro experience with hardware, software, networking, etc. Over a dozen active certifications and like to be a sponge on learning new stuff. I apply for a job wanting every skill like DBA, CCNP, all MS server software, client support, etc. and they only expect to pay $35k then they quote HR pay standards that are way out of date (some prior to SQL's existence?!?) and I cannot make them understand why they should pay more. I quit traveling, seeking, and waiting for the viable and now am self-employed making $35k working around 1/4 the time a full-time job would have. My family of four wants more and so do I. Bottom line - I refuse to settle for such low pay when I've had to memorize thousands upon thousands of textbook technical details nobody like an accountant would even venture to discuss such as Ipsec, or OSI models, etc. Yes, I'm bitter and my brain hurts at the scope of skills I have. Maybe negotiation isn't one of them, but I never wanted it to be. I do not believe I'm over exaggerating that I should be making 6 figures easily, but I also don't want to live in downtown Hot'Lanta to get there.

Robert.Thomson
Robert.Thomson

The above referenced article about "IT Sleeping Pods" is a perfect corollary for this one. http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/european-technology/how-sleeping-pods-will-keep-a-datacentre-awake-during-the-olympics/396 Imagine if someone suggested that HR use sleeping pods so they could be at the office anytime they were needed. HA! If IT personnel were anywhere near to being a truly scarce and precious resource, accommodations would be made so they could work from someplace comfortable, like at home??? Oh I forgot, you need IT people to do that. Well if there was a set of Executives, that needed to be present at work all the time for some critical function, you can bet a bunch of offices would be converted into nice apartments for them. Not sleeping pods in the hallway. Let???s face it, IT people are the Morlock Plumbers of the modern world. The Eloi are never happy to see you. Because even if you fix it quickly and perfectly, the very fact they had to call you means there was something wrong that they could not handle.

Mandolinface
Mandolinface

. In the eighties and nineties, we heard that it didn't matter that the U.S. was shipping so many jobs overseas, because in the future, Americans would all become programmers and other highly skilled professionals. (Never mind that many perfectly intelligent people would rather have simpler, lower-stress jobs.) The U.S., however, didn't do anything to ensure that we'd have that technical talent when the time came. When everyone predicted that the future would require thousands of workers trained in IT, biochemistry, physics, etc., many other countries provided incentives (free, or even paid education, etc.) to produce those workers. Meanwhile, the U.S. produces more journalism graduates each year than the total number of journalism jobs--both available and filled--that exist in the country, Instead of investing in education to produce the talent we need, we're producing people with unneeded skills and massive student loan debt. This is why, in the IT department of the major clothing chain/import company I currently work for, roughly two-thirds of the skilled labor is from India. Some of them are now Americans, but most are here on H1B1 visas. I'm here on a contract through an Indian agency that's renting me out to another Indian company that has a contract to build and maintain this San Francisco company's networks and data center. In addition to the H1Bi workers, there's a large offshore team in India. So, we're shipping money to India to pay people to help us ship money to sweatshops in China. In my wife's field--biopharmaceuticals--it's a similar story: a large percentage of the scientists and regulatory affairs people are from other countries. Part of the reason for this state of affairs is economical. The H1B1 system has helped keep many wages close to flat since 2000. Mostly, however, the U.S. does not plan ahead and create incentives that steer college freshmen into technology or science. There really is a shortage, and it's a national embarrassment. For every tax dollar we saved by not bankrolling computer science degrees, how many dollars now go overseas?

Professor8
Professor8

I'm seeing lots of good comments. Here's my summary: 1. No evidence of a talent, skill, knowledge "shortage" or "shortfall" has ever been presented. We've only seen self-serving execs (in business and academia), and immigration lawyers, and foreign labor trying to make an argument disconnected with reality that they expect will boost their personal interests. OTOH, dozens of academic studies have suggested that there's a glut of STEM workers, with as many as 3 additional people able to do STEM work being added for every STEM job. 2. Bodyshopping just keeps on increasing since the 1970s, while real jobs are extremely rare. 3. There is such a thing as professional ethics. There are jobs that should not be done, apps that should not be developed, data-bases that should never be created. And guest-workers and off-shoring are means to get around standards of professional ethics... while depressing compensation and providing cover for age discrimination. 4. BLS "hours worked" statistics bear little relationship with reality. Their numbers are well below anything I've experienced or what many others report, and we're partially at fault. I've never charged people for the full hours I've had to spend doing research and experimentation to figure out the best way to implement something. i've never put those hours on a time sheet. But then the managers have almost always discouraged honest reporting of hours worked, and every time we carefully and conscientiously reported in detail how we've invested our time in the work, they've thrown a fit, wailing about "unauthorized over-time". Even when it got approved by 3-4 levels of managers, the execs have rescinded authorization after the work has already been done. 5. Recruiting has been racing down-hill into total dysfunctionality over the last 25 years or so. Hardly any of today's "recruiters" can read a resume. They don't have any idea what the "requirements" and the "nice to haves" are. The "talent" or "candidate" tracking or management systems impede matching up capable people with their optimal work; they hide talent rather than bring it to light. Capable, conscientious head-hunters often worked without resumes, were active in taking steps to get together talented individuals with the appropriate hiring managers, and were far more effective (and ended up with much higher match/commissions per candidate). And they got the people matched up quickly. 6. Execs are much more reluctant to fly capable candidates in for interviews, to relocate new-hires or retained employees, and to train new-hires or retained employees. 20-25 years ago, it was common for employers to plan on such things, and would invest 2 to 12 weeks (occasionally even more) in formal training of STEM new-hires, and about 2-4 weeks per year for retained employees. They're much more apt to drag their heals for 6-18 months on a single hire rather than invest in a couple weeks of training. I put the blame for much of this on inflation, changes in tax laws and regulations, and on the ready supply of cheap, pliant guest-workers with flexible/questionable ethics. The shift from super-computers and mainframes to micro-computers have also driven BYOD thinking (which also contributes to the "do your own training even though you have no idea what training we desire you to have, and it has to match exactly our most bizarre whims in that regard" thinking) and the shift in relative costs of hardware and talent have also had negative effects. A shop that planned on having 200 developers working on 1-3 products using a $10M super-computer with work-stations and terminals for each (plus real offices, secretarial support, receptionists, parking, a couple hundred sales and marketing people, product managers, managers...) is now conceived of as a temporary gig for 6-12 developers using $1200-$3500 apiece microcomputers (plus smart-phones or tablets) that they're expected to buy and upgrade, themselves, out of their after-tax pay, in a bull-pen or cubicles or the CEO's apartment.

fhrivers
fhrivers

...who want to work long hours for crap pay. Have you seen the job description for many IT positions? They look like an inventory list of whatever technology the company is using. They don't understand that there's a billion different permutations of technology and there is NO IT professional out there who is a perfect fit. Even the guy that left the company wasn't always the perfect fit--he became it. Any employer who gives you the "laundry list" of job descriptions probably don't have enough people.

tbmay
tbmay

That's the biggest thing. But there's a bigger, systemic psychological thing too. I didn't understand how our culture of instant gratification and disposability led to unrealistic expectations until I actually started and ran a full time IT business. You can look at it like this.....people don't value intellectual property. When I say "people" just look at it to mean the general public...not ALL people. When I say value, I mean they want it enough to pay for it....not that they don't want it for free. People don't value service. Oh, I know in some marketing circles it's popular to say they do, but for the most part that type of person is the exception. People don't value functional. They see functional as an entitlement. People value PHYSICAL things. Things that look cool. Things that are heavy, so they must be valuable. People want things now. They don't want to invest. They don't want wait. They don't care about the technical details, or you creative solutions. Just give me what I want now. Business is just an extension of the "people" concept. Managers have learned to churn and burn as a survival technique. Get short term results, and get out before it's too late. While we probably all agree with this, the question is what is the right move for the IT pro. Well....it's unavoidable some of us will have to get out. I don't see there ever being a demand like there was pre 2k. Everybody needs to look hard at transferable skills, and how to get more of them. It might be the best thing that could happen to them if they simply took a paycut and did something else. I most definitely am telling geeky teens to avoid the industry. I doubt many are listening, but I do my best as a fellow who honestly cares about their ability to earn a living in the future.

macmanjim
macmanjim

That companies don't want to invest in employees that they already have. If we had illegal aliens coming across the border that had these skills, we wouldn't hear complaints. This is an effort to get the government to raise H1B and other visa levels to satisfy their need for cheaper and more compliant labor. If companies would invest in what we have available here and also in students in college, may be the whining would stop as well. The thing is, it's a dollar chasing a dime. They don't want to spend the money on investment, just have ready made labor. While it is a global economy, this shows poor appreciation and respect for where these leaders live. I imagine they'd sell grandma if it helped the bottom line.

kevalger
kevalger

I would have to agree with the fabricated "Labor Shortage" statements. I recently went to a major job fair at the University and found that there were several companies looking for interns and entry level people for about $11-$18 per hour, but when I pressed further I found that most of the employers were not looking for that many people to fill those positions. As a person who has had to call the dredded "HELP DESK" I have dealt 1st hand with the major language barrier and witnessed the lack of common sence the tech managers have regarding the customer service aspect of business. I don't understand how these managers keep their jobs considering that customers have by in large fled companies who's customer service is farmed out to a country that has a very tepid grasp of the english language. Eventually people not only get fed up but they also share their experiance with their friends warning them off. This is a very good example of you get what you pay for, and I have on many occassions favored great customer service over great price because, "YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR" plain and simple. So when I read (on a daily basis) of yet another technology business fails and is being liquidated, I just sit back and laugh out loud with a hint of sadness at the victim business owner who was cheated over by a smooth talking "tech manager" who was 80% con man, 10% sales man, 5% technology knowledgeable, and 5% ready for the next job they knew they would have to be looking for as they were experianced in failure and ready for the eventual outcome without the concern for the co-workers who probably needed the paycheck.

gevander
gevander

tl;dr - Short version: A skills shortfall **IS** a skills crisis because if nobody has the skills required to do the job or compete for a different job, the job cannot be done AT ANY PRICE. Long version: I was laid off from a job because I was one of the most expensive people doing the job (never mind that I was ALSO one of the most productive). PLUS they were outsourcing a couple dozen positions at my level to India (cheaper workers, less productive). I was hired at a different company and at a higher rate of pay. BUT... We have three people on my team all at about 90% utilization. 100% utilization is management's goal, BUT... we are supposed to continue our education to improve our usefullness to the company (meaning 2 people have to add 1/2 of another person's work to their own load which means working more hours for the same pay), BUT... The company has allocated $850 per person (company wide)for continuing education while classes for our continuing education (IT) start at $1300 per course, AND... The company KNOWS that not everyone will take a class this year, yet it is impossible to take a $1300 class before 4th quarter, AND... The company freezes all the training budgets in October. If I cannot get the training required to improve my own job performance or get the training to compete for my manager's job when he/she moves on, I **AM** the skills shortfall.

bobw1776
bobw1776

The unemployment in tech, and 'lower' than normal salaries is due to companies not hiring directly on their own, independent of the price gouging and manipulation by recruitment firms. None of these placement shops use anything close to ethical practices; in fact, most of colleagues consider them crooks. They foul up every deal they get involved with, taking %55 of the tech worker's wages, and refusing to let the client company hire them full-time for a minimum of 4 months, most of the time much longer. The net effect is that the worker quits or is fired, not willing to work under such "unjust" conditions. By having companies using "placement" firms instead of hiring them direct, the United States of America has become like 3rd rate countries where crime, corruption, poverty and injustice are the rule of the land. Let companies simply place their own ads on places like CareerBuilder.com, instead of telling some lying, thieving middle-man to place the ad for them.

joe
joe

I wholeheatedly agree with this item. I have noticed grads with first class honours in perhaps their second or third job being paid less than the average council administrators. Some of these kids are very tallanted and are worked very hard. I also regularly see employees in life science companies being paid astronomical salaries in comparison to their counterparts (in terms of skills and responsibilities). There is no skills crisis in IT - in fact there is a glut of very highly qualified, talanted people working for a pittance. The myth stems from the following. Companies bemoan the fact that they cannot find 'exact, pre-trained, pre-inducted, drones that fit into exactly the precise job specifications that they come up with. This is a reflection of a fundamental lazziness and unwilling to work with raw talent on the part of companies and it is re-interpruted (as many things are) by the civil service as a 'Crisis' demanding more public sector budget. More training grants, more courses, more public sector spending on educating people for jobs that do not exist. Consequence - wages are bid down, talanted young people working for very little - dragging the rest of the sector down. Why don't they train more people to sell pills and boxes to the NHS instead - there certainly seems to be a skills crisis in that sector.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

This is simple demand versus supply. More people with the requisite skills (don't get me started on skills versus tools), the less they cost. Add in the paper qualified, the appaling mismatch between theory and application in academia, the certification merry-go-round, the constant dumbing down of the required disciplines, the ignorance of hirers and the desire for short term maximisation of sahreholder value and you get where we are now. The best people already have a job, and are expensive (relatively) The least experienced can't get a job, becasue they haven't got experience Most of those with choice of a career path , quite rightly are not going anywhere near IT. So now we end up with that other simple truism. You get what you pay for. Suck it up business heads, this is what you wanted.

d_baron
d_baron

I was a kid when a basketball with antennae was sent into orbit and transmitted tremendously useful information: beep...beep...beep.... All of a sudden, the USA was lacking in physicists, engineers, teachers, etc. Many of us were steered into these professions (OK, I liked it, no regrets) and were never employed in them. Sound familiar? Something new under the sun? Not to sound paranoid, but, yes, the whole thing was a scam. They took what they considered la-creme d la creme and the rest of us ended up in the ash can. Dot com crisis of a few years back? Hi paid balloon burst and all-of-a-sudden, experienced computer pros over 40 were no longer needed or welcome. Another unfortunate coincidence? You bet.

JohnWarfin
JohnWarfin

The needs of clients of the IT industry probably remain pretty constant: collect, enter, analyze, report. However, demand for IT services is largely driven like a treadmill of resource diversion toward ever increasing IT potential to make those basics look snazzy. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that metrics for getting actual work done are rarely presented. The industry feeds itself by delivering new demands as much as- or dare we consider- more often than it delivers (let alone supports) end-user productivity. The IT ecosystem drives self-supporting purchasing of upgrades to hardware, software, security and employee skills- often infuriatingly divorced from the ability of people to actually get meaningful use from their systems. The real big bang in IT has been in management, which does remain well-paid overall even without demonstrable training or certifications. Improving computing resources and implementations- while often miraculous- are taken to be driven by Moore's law, and completely taken for granted as low-skilled platform requirements- met solely through training. The singular constant of change- in coding, protocols, technology- allows management to claim required skills are reflected entirely by (certified, current) training, which is perpetually, and conveniently, falling out of date. Hence, relatively low salaries and completely inappropriate dependence on certifications are seen as appropriate for obtaining the basic 'monkey-motions' required by more important BIG PLANS. Conveniently, the inflated 'need' for certified trainings have been satisfied by divisions of the same industry that demands them. Staff development, versatility, insight and so on all seem to be viewed as impedimentary wastes of the energy needed to service the constant churn of new initiatives. What incentive could there be NOT to continually re-select freshly trained, newly certified and up-to-date new applicants at entry level salaries? A supposedly small slice of my duties is to help a large group deal with the endless march of interrupting IT 'improvements'- that keep systems updating and re-booting all week every week. Although we are persistently blessed with Orwellian memos and indecipherable messages about making work safer and more productive, there is a real feeling that IT has no clue or concern for end-user productivity. The 'lack of skills' end-users perceive in both IT management and support focuses on that insensitivity to, or perhaps outright disregard for why people are expected to USE their computers.

just1opinion
just1opinion

I think there are at least a few things at work here. 1) Employers are not willing to pay in the first place. In my 25 years in IT, there has been a constant push by employers to depress salaries using a number of tactics. This false scarcity is used to encourage more people to train independently and enlarge the pool (and justify off-shoring as someone else stated). 2) Employers have not yet figured out that they should be hiring on talent, not skill. Hire a talented person and pay them well and they will take care of you and learn any skill needed. 3) Without employers willing to do hire by talent (#2), it is very difficult for individuals to independently train to current needs. There is no real incentive to invest a large amount of personal time and money in self-training when the market will have moved by the time you are trained.

templetb
templetb

The last time I was in the job market, employers in one sector of the economy would not hire a person who had done the same job, but in a different sector. So a person who has the skill in one sector, such as education, would not be even considered to do the same job in a health care setting. Then the health care sector claims lack of skills. The problem was not in the applicants, but in the HR people and in the employer who would not allow experience to transfer between sectors.

mek804
mek804

When a position opens but demands the wearing of multiple hats, such as help desk administrator, DBA, developer, and oh, yeah, CCNA with 14+ years networking... guess what? That person doesn't exist. And then HR/recruiters whine that they can't find qualified candidates. DUH!

jonrosen
jonrosen

1) As in the article, there are a TON of IT workers in the unemployment 'lines'. 2) Many Certification exams don't cover a lot of what happens in actual work environs 3) Most college-level schooling (IMO) doesn't train anyone for work environs 4) Companies do not want to take any responsibility for their IT employees. They want 'plug and play' employees for IT (and other fields) and, being PEOPLE, things just do not work that way. Few companies, if any, do everything the exact same way. Ask any 10 companies IT departments how they do XYZ, and you'll get 15 different answers. If you want a guru, PAY for one... OR, TRAIN ONE yourself. (this is to the managers.) Corps no longer truly train their employees, at least not like they used to. Once was a time you started with a company/corporation, and they made sure they kept you. That is no longer the case. The other bit to the 'lack' of IT 'workers', is that some of these companies HAVE gone overseas for some type of help... And it backfired. I assure you I am NOT the only person who knows more about the device they call in for support on, than the first level OR TWO of the tech support. And to boot it's often hard, if not impossible to understand them. Of course, due to a particularly stupid JUDGE... A company I know is ~no longer allowed to ask technical questions~ of any call-center/tech-support new-hires. And then wonder why their customers are angry.

jmackeyiii
jmackeyiii

- managerial/owner incompetence - the BYOD mentality in conjunction to the highly related U.I.O.I.T.B.P. (user ideas overrule IT best practices)

sysdev
sysdev

No, there are plenty of skilled people looking for employment, but there is a significant shortage of the people with the required knowledge to hire them and there is going to be an outcry when the companies finally realize that their HR departments are looking only at the salary and not the skills needed. Experienced people with yers of the proper skill are being bypassed for cheaper people with six months of that skill. We are haeded for a skillset crash.

BrianBooher
BrianBooher

I have two college degrees in IT, but find it hard to land a real job because I just do not have the necessary experience with some tools. I want to learn about them, but you can only do so much in a classroom environment. I do not like to exaggerate on my current IT skills. If I do not have much experience with something, I make it known. I do want to understand how to do the stuff, but a lot of the time I just do not have access or anyone who is willing to show me the ropes. Businesses today want the skills NOW. If you do not have them, you're out of luck. They do not want to waste time and money having to do any kind of training. You are basically expected to know everything at 8am on Monday of your first day of work like you have been there for 10 years.

sperry532
sperry532

Employers want IT people with Journeyman level skills at Entry Level wages. IT people with Entry level skills still expect Journeyman wages. Corporate Boards and investors want high profits and damn the workers. And nobody's willing to give up anything.

millsdan
millsdan

Even if it were true that there is a worker shortage, we the human beings populating this planet have always found ways to improve efficiency or effectiveness to the extent that "shortages" seem to pass or be adapted out of existence. The base case for off shoring work though was not employee shortages, but cost savings, and as has been suggested, that is most likely the driver here. Way back in 1999 I predicted to co-workers that eventually pay in the world market for "skilled IT workers" will rise to a level (and the US rate will fall) where the cost savings (with the included loss of convenience factors - 2 AM to 10 AM work days) would go away, leaving local labor as the most cost effective solution. Are we there and that represents a "shortage?"

DalesPC
DalesPC

They do not want highly experienced and successful software/firmware engineers because they would have to pay more for the talent and since most managers do not understand the technology ( that is my experience) they want someone recently out of college because then their butt is covered. I had managers tell me that I did not understand the technology that I was involved in inventing, first production implementation, evolution, and support of technologies because my schooling was too long ago.

kallingham
kallingham

Interesting comment from WSSCMAH, but I think it might be related to the known rates of pay offshore compared to the known domestic rates. The shortage may be related in this way- there aren't enough good domestic IT people that align with the more desirable offshore rates...

WSSCMAH
WSSCMAH

It's not a shortage of people in IT - it's a shortage of people who really know what they are doing. I interview all the time and find there to a glut of mid-level people. But people who aren't just power administrators - people with true knowledge - a very hard to find. One of my vendors (let's just IBM/EMC/HP to not be specific but get the idea) has concurred from information among his clients. There is a shortage of really good IT people, but there are plenty of people who are in the IT field. And I think this has kept salaries down as companies are worried that they most often get people who are not that good - so they don't offer up the pay. The economy overall doesn't help either as employers feel like they can just turn around and get someone else given the state of unemployment - but again, it's hard to turn around and get a really knowledgeable person.

matthew.schroeder
matthew.schroeder

Employers just don't want to put any training into an employee. Even though often every job requires some training since we all use technology differently.

jkameleon
jkameleon

>[q]Its often claimed we are suffering an IT skills crisis of epic proportions[/q] Wrong. It is [b]always[/b] claimed we are suffering an IT skills crisis of epic proportions. I've been in this profession for more than 25 years, and in all this time, the said claiming never stopped. Not for a moment, regardless of economic situation. > [q]So what is fueling these claims of a skills crisis? According to the LSEs Liebenau, one reason is many reports about IT skills demand are based on interviews with the likes of HR directors, who have a clear incentive to report that they need higher skilled people, in order that they have a larger talent pool to choose from.[/q] Exactly. There are other reasons as well. Industry is interested in larger talent pool, because it drives the wages down. Universities are interested in larger number of students, for obvious reasons. Management, when pressured by stockholders over lower profits, tends to shift the blame to the lack of [u]proper[/u] (ha!) talent. Such blame shifting is fairly reliable early indicator of IT companies being squeezed by coming recession. So: If you go to news.google.com, search for "it talent shortage", "it skill shortage", or something similar, and if you notice an increase in number of different articles, it's time to consider selling or shorting the tech stocks.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Someone with a HR background making sense, course if he was in the job, he'd be saying "We have the best people and a steep learning curve or some such...

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

Personal experience with 1,2,3,4,3,5,3,6,3 etc...if you get my drift.

Tech U!
Tech U!

@fhrivers right, they are not sure what they are doing technically, so they don't know what to ask for, so they list every tech term they ever heard of as a job requirement. Make em pay, and make em pay dearly or don't take the job. Better yet, tell them you want a binding labor contract up ( with job description of course) front or don't take their insane job. feck em! and their management!!

TWBurger
TWBurger

The opposite sex is easier to figure out than a company looking for IT people. I hand them my 18 page resume that covers, in detail, everything I ever did without actually breaking any nondisclosure agreements and I am rejected for being "over-qualified". Taking a different tack, I submit a two or three pager covering companies and positions in a terse two line summary for each. The rejection is then" "You do not have a specific technology we are looking for." The last was SSRS - SQL Server Reporting Services. Well, no, I don't have experience with SSRS. SSRS was designed so that non-programmers could run SQL Server reports. All of my work is coding custom reporting, ad hoc query interfaces, and data mining systems that I built directly in SQL. Not only for SQL Server using T-SQL but in Oracle PL/SQL, DB2, ZIM (an old QNX server SQL) and others. "Oh!" they say, "That makes you over-qualified." Sigh.

TWBurger
TWBurger

The tech manager con man is a real phenomenon that I have experienced. However, it's the more common partners in crime that make IT fail more often: If #3 is the Con man IT Manager we also have (in ascending order of percentages): #2 The Techno Freak IT Manager This IT fascinated manager hates dealing with people and who does little management and puts all energy into getting more and newer technology for the sake of getting more and newer technology. #1 The Rebel Without a Clue IT Manager The even more common failure of an IT manager is the "does not have a clue how to manage an IT department or project" IT manager. PMP certified or not this person will provide you with no resources, sets no guidelines, and can not define deliverables to save your life (or job). You lose your job. The manager is promoted out of IT into a VP role to help HR find more skilled IT workers.

TWBurger
TWBurger

IT Department Mistakes: ..infuriatingly divorced from the ability of people to actually get meaningful use from their systems.. After 25 years of working in IT I see little general improvement to workers' quality of life, overall workplace efficiency, or speed/accuracy of services. Why? As JohnWarfin stated, it's the preoccupation with tech and lack of focus on system usability for end users. HR Department Mistakes: ..completely inappropriate dependence on certifications.. Once, after fixing my neighbor's laptop, again, after a certified technician thoroughly gimped it up, we discussed certifications versus ability and he mentioned he had two cousins with official certifications from a large Washington state based software firm that is somewhat well known. Neither owned a computer, used a computer, or had ever turned one on. They are very smart, hardworking people (and obviously brilliant at studying for tests), but not anything near the IT workers they are officially certified to be. Corporate Management Mistakes: ..Orwellian memos and indecipherable messages about making work safer and more productive.. Belief that more and newer technology will save you is, to me, the worst mistake company officers constantly make. Why they believe this is a matter of debate: Pure hope or industry hype or desperation. But, it is ignorance and not realizing that they are lacking in the managing of IT that creates the perception that skills are lacking and that is why projects consistently fail and fail again. The conspiracy of false press statements to justify a phony need to boost foreign worker visas scheme seems a little too much a "plot to control the government/banks/media/water supply/alien visitors/cure for cancer and thats why I have aluminum foil on my head conspiracy theory for my tastes. It may be true that a "lack of available IT skills" is used as an excuse but the perception of this lack is actually genuine. Of course, its still wrong and is born of wanting to blame something you don't control for your failings, but is used as the excuse along with the basic stupidity, greed, and lack of morality that justifies firing your staff and hiring infinitely more abusable IT workers from overseas that work for a fraction of the pay. The solution is simple: Hire people that understand how to define and solve problems with IT technologies and work to keep them. Hire outside/overseas workers to provide services when temporary extra effort is needed and local talent is not available and learn to not use them just to make a financial quarter's profits look better. And, regard technology as a tool to be used to help provide what is needed to run the company, not as a solution to the bad management that is hindering it. It is management that needs to be trained how to use and manage IT not already skilled and experienced IT workers. The failure of IT is in management. Senior management blames IT Management. IT blames HR management. HR blames lack of skilled workers. Senior management hires overseas. Overseas workers fail due to lack of IT knowledge of senior management. Its a nasty, perfect cycle.

andrew232006
andrew232006

In my mind most companies need people who will learn. Even if they find someone with three years experience in all the two year old products they're are using, there is still learning involved. Chances are what they are doing is somehow unique and requires a new solution, otherwise someone would have already released a product to do it for them. If they can't count on that person to stick around after and the job market is scarce as they say. They need to provide incentive to stay or accept the training as an necessary expense. Is it really fair to expect IT people to continually invest in all these skills and/or certifications with expiry dates? One could argue that employers are compensating them for the time and money they spent learning with higher salaries, but from the job ads I've been seeing that doesn't seem to be the case.

jkameleon
jkameleon

#2 would indeed be the solution to "talent crisis", "skill crisis", whatever you want to call it, BUT-- prerequisite for it is the long term relationship and mutual trust between employer and employee. That trust is now gone. It was broken so long ago, that it no longer matters who broke it, why, and how. It's gone, and it's not coming back. We'll just have to live without it- if we can.

SimonHobson
SimonHobson

>> I do not like to exaggerate on my current IT skills. If I do not have much experience with something, I make it known. Ditto. However, anecdotally it does seem that there are an awful lot of people who will, to be polite, "talk up their skills" - where (just picking some contrived example) "once inserted install CD/DVD for and accepted all the default answers" (ie skill level is "has actually seen it but little more") becomes "expert at administering ". What seems to be happening, is that HR people who lack the skills to tell their OS from their USB port are compensating by asking for "expert in " when what they really want is "knows how to turn on computer with ". That leaves honest applicants in a quandary : do you tell the truth (in which case don't bother applying because the HR droid will bin your application for not having all the boxes ticked), or do you lie ? Personally, I don't lie on applications - but that also means I don't make many as most would be a complete waste of time (I stand no chance of getting shortlisted even though the job seems just at my level). Thus, for many outfits, the majority of the applicants they get to see (after their outsourced HR has "vetted" them) will be the "CV embellishers". You don't have to look at too many job adverts to realise this is the case. So many of them have a clear and obvious (to anyone with any experience in IT) disconnect between what they ask for and what they actually appear to want when you read between the lines. Of course, there are so many other hiring fails, just two that come immediately to mind : Agencies that can't read ! When I see jobs listed by agencies, I generally try hard to find out who the job is with. More than once I've found the agency advertising on the "job sites" with the "click here to apply" button - while the employer has "no agencies" and "applications must be on our form" on their website. Naturally the illiterate agency doesn't want you to figure this out, as they want their fee if they manage to sneak an application past the employers requirements. Of course, it's not just for the above - I kind of like to have some idea who I might be applying to work with ! Agencies and employers that can't be arsed to communicate. A few work the old fashioned way - they'll acknowledge your application, and let you know if you've not made it. Too many these days can't be arsed to do either ! I realise they probably get lots of applications, but is that an excuse to not even send an email ?

MyopicOne
MyopicOne

...since management has thrown so many of us away one or more times over the last five or ten years...

Justin James
Justin James

The issue isn't that there is a "lack of IT people" or even a "lack of skilled IT people". The issue is that there is a complete mis-match between the people available and the skills required (or perceived as requirements). Furthermore, there is a mis-match between the quality of workplace expected by the good talent, and the quality of workplace offered by typical employees. Every company wants to hire Wyatt Earp with 10 years experience doing EXACTLY what the last person who had the job was doing. You aren't going to get that! Every company wants to hire someone who can "hit the ground running" with no training required. Not happening! To make matters worse, some of this lack of realism is totally justified, because there are way too many jokers running around in IT who have no idea what they are doing, and it takes 3 months after you hire them to find out what a mess they are making. So companies have become very gunshy about the folks they hire, and demand "top talent" when realistically, "intermediate level" people *should* be sufficient, if you can find one that actually is "intermediate" and not some junior level person who knows some buzzwords. So the "skills shortage" cuts both ways. Companies want better talent than they need, giving them the impression that there is a lack of skilled folks... and many skilled folks aren't getting jobs because companies got burned too many times with similar folks with a "less than senior-level" resume. J.Ja

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

When they do find somebody who really knows what he's doing, they pile more and more work on him, but don't raise his pay, until they chase him away. He then puts the word out about how XYZ Corp abuses their IT people. And they start wondering why they can't get IT people who really know what they're doing...

jkameleon
jkameleon

Including HR. There are many companies out there, who honestly want to treat their employees like people, but alas, they have to compete against those who don't.

Editor's Picks