The Perfect IT Storm: Growing Demand, Slowing Availability of Talent

The perfect hiring storm for skilled IT people is on its way sooner than many realize, or at least they don’t want to think about it right now.

All the statistics are telling an impending story:

  • While 46 million baby-boomers are expected to retire by 2010, a few short years away, only 41 million TOTAL people are expected to enter the workforce.
  • The serious lack of skilled workers that began in 2005 will grow to 5.3 million by 2010 and 14 million by 2015.
  • The shortage will be most acute among managers and skilled workers in high-tech jobs.

The U.S. Labor Department lays the blame on the dot-com bust. In the light of so many failed IT startups, workers and college students chose to avoid the technology sector because of the lack of opportunity in wake of the bust. This has resulted “in a dearth of information technology professionals,” said Robert Cresanti, the Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology.

This is coupled with the fact that the IT sector is seeing one of the lowest unemployment rates in its history.

A prime example is the ranks of computer hardware engineers. Between 2004 and 2014, it’s projected there will be a demand for 5,000 per year, some 50,000 in the ten-year span. However, only about 8,000 new hardware engineers are projected to enter the workforce in that period.

In other words, the skilled people won’t be there! Oh, there are plenty of “applicants” for jobs, but not necessarily the right people to fill critical IT slots.

In 2003, a national association asked its members about hiring needs: some 80 percent reported a moderate to serious shortage of qualified applicants then.

Even with the touted layoffs and downsizings still underway throughout the industry, skilled employees are in growing demand and slowing availability.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the “skills” component will only grow worse:

  • Employers estimate that 39% of their current workforce and 26% of new hires will have basic skills deficiencies while. . .
  • 65% of all American employment now requires specific skills.

IT staffing firms like NetEffects are working hard to fill that gap. (A word to the wise: if you have good people, work hard to keep them!) All employers with tech talent need to be looking at pay and job environments. In addition, they should also consider valued benefits like health insurance, the ability to work from home, flex hours, on-site child care. These are all things that talent are seeking from employers. Keeping talent goes beyond traditional and non-traditional benefits. Many employees place high value on recognition for a job well done, training to improve their skills, and respect for their talent and contributions. Keep in mind that many employee surveys show that while pay is important, it’s not always THE most critical issue.