Technology job shortages and rocket science

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Oct 12

Business Week’s “The Great Tech Worker Divide” has an interesting look at the conundrum of technology workers here in the US not being able to find work while tech companies are continually complaining about not having enough skilled workers.

The article correctly points out that the need in the US is for much more highly skilled technology workers — software engineers, technology managers, and software architects — than entry or mid-level workers.

Here’s a typical (and fact-based) comment:

Microsoft’s Schofield feels the (technology job) shortages may get worse. Statistics show declining interest in tech degrees at all levels, and he is worried the hunt for talent will only get harder.

In math, science, and engineering, for example, 50% or more of the post-graduate degrees at U.S. universities are now awarded to foreign nationals. “Enrollment in computer science and engineering is dropping like a rock,” says Schofield. “There is already huge competition for people with really deep skills, and it will only get worse.”

Some specific data from the article:

  • Unemployment in the tech sector is 1.8% — but salaries in the sector are still below their level in 2000.
  • The number of computer programming positions in the U.S. has tumbled 25% since 2000.
  • Programmers and support specialists — the easiest categories to outsource — continue to shed positions. Computer programmer employment tumbled to 396,020 last year, from 530,730 in 2000.
  • The biggest job gains in information technology in the past year have been for software engineers, IT managers, and network systems analysts.

People are smart enough to get that companies are outsourcing tech jobs. Even though there is a shortage of tech workers, there has been no equivalent increase in wages to attract talent. Gen Y reads about this and opts out of a technology career — who needs the grief?

So there’s no money to be made by going into technology. In addition, you risk your position being outsourced at any time.

And to be a software engineer, IT manager or network systems analyst — from the job descriptions I’ve read — mean you need to have all of this great experience programming, providing support, and working your way through the technology skills food chain in order to get the right “deep” skills to qualify for the positions. You don’t learn those skills in some college; you need experience.

But you can’t get those skills here in the US any more. Consequently — surprise! — no one wants to go into the industry. Working on cool stuff is great: having a career with progression of skills from entry to senior levels means more.

Technology departments and companies broke that skills development path and now wonder why there is a shortage of “deeply” skilled workers and no one coming into the industry.

Well, it’s not rocket science.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.