Tech Talent Shortage, Or Busted Moral Compass? - InformationWeek
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Tech Talent Shortage, Or Busted Moral Compass?

Readers weigh in on training, internships, partnerships, and 'cut-and-paste robotic HR people.'

Another industry executive I heard from, the CEO of a Texas-based systems integrator, blames "cut-and-paste, robotic HR people" for corporate America's seeming inability to fill open tech positions with qualified people. Staffing companies, he says, depend too much on resume certs references rather than an understanding of what the job requires. "Experienced American citizens abound to fill jobs here or on foreign soils if senior technical management makes the time and accepts responsibility for properly interviewing job applicants personally prior to getting HR involved when hiring technology-skilled professionals," he says.

A reader who describes himself as "someone who has sat on many sides of the IT hiring and management desk" observes that companies looking to hire after the deep recession are seeking experienced business technology pros who can drive and manage IT projects in highly matrixed work environments. "These positions require people who have the ability to work effectively with internal and outsourced IT, the business side of the house, and are fully security-, audit-, and compliance-aware--especially as new cloud initiatives are deployed," he says. The problem is that the recession and "mass outsourcing" have driven many of the people who meet those criteria out of the IT profession, he says. "The smarter and more fortunate ones ended up in the consulting world, where they found higher salaries and much more flexible work environments, and they don't want to go back," he says.

Another reader, who just concluded a four-year job search, suggests that instead of having governments pour money into programs that train students or unemployed professionals "to do a job that polled well when our politicians funded it" (he cites green jobs as an example), we instead use that money to relocate skilled workers to where the openings are for their skill sets. (I assume that money would come in the form of tightly controlled employer subsidies rather than putting the federal government in the worker relocation business.)

The principal of a consulting firm in Georgia is looking to the pool of experienced mid-level professionals displaced by the recession. Another place to look is among the tens of thousands of returning military men and women. The National Guard, in association with three non-profits, has launched a national campaign to encourage small and midsize companies to post openings for skilled technical workers and a range of other positions on the National Guard's job bank. The program aims to serve not only unemployed National Guard veterans, but also those from other military branches as well as their spouses. Companies that want to post open jobs can do so here, free of charge.

Is Far Really Better? My father used to have an expression--"far is better"--which was his backhanded critique of people who thought they had to trek many miles to their favorite bakery, tailor, or some other proprietor when one just as good or even better was around the corner. We see the same phenomenon in IT circles.

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User Rank: Apprentice
3/22/2012 | 6:35:06 PM
re: Tech Talent Shortage, Or Busted Moral Compass?
"Busted moral compass..." that would imply Companies are people. Oh, wait a minute, Supreme Court indicated companies WERE people (or at least had a right to influence elections). Oh, I guess that only applies when Companies want it to apply, but not when they don't !
Even if it isn't a morality issue, training employees MOST CERTAINLY should be something that they see as being in their BEST INTEREST. Sadly, the curren economic situation will likely cause many Companies to be short sighted, until they wake up and find themselves too far gone to come back.
User Rank: Strategist
3/23/2012 | 8:08:45 PM
re: Tech Talent Shortage, Or Busted Moral Compass?
I have seen more which could and should complain about broken CIOs (those that are no more than CFOs assigned where they can do more limited damage) than actual lack of IT skills (although there are some false prophets out there counselling the CIOs which I referred to earlier). Companies and placement agencies expect newly minted MCPs or CCNAs or to perform at MCITS or CCIE levels and you can see the confusion in the advertisements (only active CCNXs). In doing so, they are sometimes passing over recent certifications with additional years of substantiated practical experience. Worse, do not invest in training for cost containment measures. They end up placing poorly qualified personnel in senior positions and end up validating these false presumptions of IT shortages (just don't expect their admissions). I have also seen the case where they expect IT staff to be fully capable from day one (or they will not hire) which fails to consider an important aspect that each company employs IT as its particular needs dictate. This means getting familiar with the local customizations and the needs which drove it.

In some cases, business flexibility does not always equal IT or technical responsiveness on a one for one basis or put another way, we can theorize a business initiative much quicker than we can place the technical structure to support it. TTM is a combination of complexity, capability, and resource availability (it will take less time if I dedicate 10 programmers than 1). We need to remember that it will almost always take less time to say "make this happen" rather than actually doing it. Vague criticism is an easy, two way street that once taken is almost always counterproductive.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/23/2012 | 8:15:58 PM
re: Tech Talent Shortage, Or Busted Moral Compass?
Infosys is investing in its people -- not just investing in buildings, servers, routers, software, and disk arrays. What a great idea! Are large tech companies -- or non-tech companies, like Kroger or P&G -- running an ROI calculation for investing in their people? Turnover costs money, and so does decreased productivity due to low morale and getting-rusty skills. Invest in your people, and reduce those costs. While I agree that individual managers (who *are* people) should have a moral obligation to treat their employees well, it can be a bit of a stretch to apply "morals" to a company. That atmosphere was more prevelant in the 1980s, and is seen less often today. Don't just cross your fingers and wish your employees had more skills -- invest in them!
Mark Simchock
Mark Simchock,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/28/2012 | 6:14:38 PM
re: Tech Talent Shortage, Or Busted Moral Compass?
I want to add that the faultering of the USA's education system is not exclusive to IT. The sad irony is that the companies that "manage" their effective taxes rate down to the bare minimum are probably the first to complain about the quality of the workforce. Dear CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, etc. you can't have your cake and eat it too. Odd, isn't it. C-Level pay rates continue to increase yet their collective long term vision decreases. Why worry about the blood and stones when you'll retire before the sh_t hits the fan?

Further more, the truly smart employees are proactively jumping ship and either go out on their own or sign-on with a viable start-up. If you're going to sweat job security why not pair that risk up with a much nice reward?

That said, the truth is the eduction issue has become political fodder just like taxes. People talk about it, especially around elections, but ultimately nothing gets done about it. It's lip service and more lip service. Much like the USA's energy policy, yes? We can't even come up with viable energy alternatives, how are we going to fix education?

The bottom line (pun intended), is that nothing will change until it absolutely, positively has to. Until then the blood will continue to be sucked from the stone. The only hope is that higher education will become the next victim of the scale and disruptive powers of the internet. The shoe is there. It's poised. Let's hope it drop sooner rather than later.
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