Majority Of Staff And Managers See Some Sign Of IT Talent Shortage
But most of those only see it certain specialties or geographic areas.
There's a raw, emotional split in the IT community over whether there's truly a U.S. shortage of tech talent. Some see the talent "shortage" as an idea cooked up by management to justify more visas for low-wage foreign workers. But our recent survey found something surprising: Business technology managers and staffers hold very similar views on whether there's a shortage. About two-thirds of both groups see some signs of a shortage.
The most prevalent view--by 45% of managers and 40% of staff--is that there's a shortage only in certain IT specialties and some geographies. Another quarter of staffers and 29% of managers see a shortage in many IT areas, according to our survey of 893 managers and 270 staffers involved in the IT hiring process. Twenty-three percent of managers and 29% of staffers say there's no U.S. shortage.
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2007 was indeed a very good year for IT job creation, according to the most recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics--the best year ever, in fact, in the seven years the bureau has been using its current IT job categories to survey workers. The eight IT job segments added more than 300,000 jobs last year, with average quarterly employment topping 3.76 million last year, up from 3.46 million at the end of 2006. Quarterly unemployment for those categories averaged 2% in 2007, exactly the same as for the larger professional and management employment category. Software engineers and computer scientists/system analysts make up 45% of the IT workforce.
Still, IT pros remain unsure of the profession's future. Just 55% of staffers who responded to our survey say they believe there are more career opportunities today than when they entered the profession, while 59% of managers think that's the case. Sixty percent of staffers and 62% of managers believe the United States is losing its leadership position in IT.
Yet a healthy majority would recommend an IT career to a child or other family member--74% of staffers and 71% of managers.
One 16-year IT veteran, a director supporting engineering applications at a major electronics company, says IT's not much different from most career choices--it depends on the company. A company that's growing, adding new applications, and building new systems is going to provide an exciting track for a young person starting a career. One in belt-tightening, do-more-with-less mode will make it tough. He sees a talent shortage in his specialized area, supporting highly technical engineering applications, because it's hard to find experienced people either in the United States or abroad, and it's not a growth area that attracts entry-level people. It's "more of a quality shortage than in actual head count," he says.
U.S. IT workers are split evenly over the coming baby boomer retirement wave, with managers slightly more worried than staff. Managers split exactly 50-50, while 42% of staff expect a shortage. Says one survey respondent: "Most of the retiring baby boomers are not really ready to retire, so you will see about 40% of that workforce continue to work well into their 70s ... at their office in their homes or in a nearby office."
There's plenty of uncertainty heading into 2008. Will healthy IT job growth continue? If there's an economic slowdown, will IT be severely cut, as it was during the last recession? One thing's likely: IT pros are likely to remain sharply divided over the answers.
Illustration by Brian Stauffer
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