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Hard Facts To Fuel The IT Talent Shortage Debate

We've got a great debate posted with two top researchers over whether there's a U.S. IT talent shortage. If you're keen on fear-mongering and histrionics, this package isn't for you. If you want two serious scholars making succinct arguments backed up with facts, read on.

Chris Murphy

January 12, 2008

2 Min Read

We've got a great debate posted with two top researchers over whether there's a U.S. IT talent shortage. If you're keen on fear-mongering and histrionics, this package isn't for you. If you want two serious scholars making succinct arguments backed up with facts, read on.Here are excerpts from the two professors' articles.

Professor Ron Hira acknowledges the IT job market's been OK, but he contends there's no shortage. He offers a risk-benefit analysis for U.S. IT workers -- and concludes that the threats, like the huge workforces U.S. tech firms are building abroad, aren't offset by relatively modest pay raises.

In addition, the risk of technological obsolescence and age discrimination are higher in IT relative to other professions. How many physicians or pharmacists become obsolete at age 40? Put in this context, it's hard to believe that the very modest wage gains of the past few years balance the increases in IT employee risk.

Professor Jerry Luftman sees a critical IT talent shortage and contends it will only get worse as baby boomers retire. And he laments the lack of action that he says is causing a "skills famine" across science, tech, engineering, and math:

U.S. IT executives have reported their concerns about the talent shortage of qualified American job seekers, and they have been largely ignored. As far back as 1998, the Society for Information Management (SIM) stated that educational institutions, organizations, and government must "take decisive action now" to address the shortage of skilled IT pros. Nine years down the road, IT leaders still report that their greatest challenge is recruiting the right IT people and then developing and retaining them.

A third piece in our package tries to assess what you think, based on a survey of more than 1,000 people involved in the tech hiring process. The conclusion:

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. ... Twenty-three percent of managers and 29% of staffers say there's no U.S. shortage.

The debate over whether there's a U.S. tech talent shortage will likely intensify this year if there's an economic slowdown, even if it doesn't take the same grim jobs toll it did earlier this decade. We hoped by giving two of the top researchers in the field a platform to discuss the topic, it would bring some fresh thinking and hard data to the topic. Let us know how we did, and what you think.

About the Author(s)

Chris Murphy

Editor, InformationWeek

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in Hungary; and a daily newspaper reporter in Michigan, where he covered everything from crime to the car industry. Murphy studied economics and journalism at Michigan State University, has an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia, and has passed the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams.

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