Re: Why shift from development to operational?
Well, it's certainly an accurate statement that there has been a shift in the disciplines where the majority of IT professionals work. This effectively occurred with the shift from centralized (mainframe) computing to distributed (client-server) computing, which required significantly more operational/administrative workers than previously. The other shift that occurred as a result of that paradigm change is that organizations became more dependent upon commercially developed software, rather than building software in-house, so yes, to a lesser extent we also saw a shift of programmers from working directly for a "customer" to working for software development companies. I doubt there are less programming jobs today than there were then, they're just not on the payroll of the end-user.
Regardless of where the shifts in employment have occurred, both developers and administrators need to be educated. But this is where the breakdown has occurred. Universities, which have had programming curricula for dozens of years (and some of those curricula have even been updated to reflect contemporary development environments, but I do know of at least one university still teaching COBOL), have been less responsive in implementing curricula targeted at server operations and administration. That gap was filled by community colleges and trade schools and the resulting focus of those programs was on "job training", not on technology education.
As for the "first job" question, I don't really know the answer to that. For many years I've been asked that question: How do I get an entry-level job in IT when all of the job descriptions require experience? My best answer has been to volunteer. Experience does not need to be paid to count, and there are gazillions of non-profits who would be very grateful for the help. Shucks, there's probably quite a few SMBs who would be happy as well.
Which begs the question.... perhaps we should be promoting the idea of unpaid or min-wage internships as entry-level opportunities. Of course, that also requires a committment on the part of the employer to mentor that intern.