Weekly Word on the Street: Thanksgiving Treat

by Jim Staats | Nov 25, 2011

Takeaway of the week is a Thanksgiving treat: Job seekers who live in and around Silicon Valley should be thankful for the bounty of apparently tech-starved firms seeking valued staffers, while those seeking the security sector just got another boost to their expected value - just don’t get too stuffed on one skill while abandoning all others.


The Tech Job-Seekers’ Next BFF? New Wave Merit Badges

Long the domain of the Boy Scouts of America, Brownies or other regional coming-of-age clubs, the merit badge may have a new role as key qualifier in the employment process if recent efforts by an educational foundation succeed.

The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is funneling millions into a competition to create digital skill badges that eventually could be attached to the Web sites, blogs or Facebook pages of prospective job hunters, according to a recent article in the New York Times. These badges would serve as supplements to items such as resumes or transcripts, helping to highlight skills including specialized computer knowledge that may not get the proper attention through traditional documents.

As foundation officials note, prospective employers could click on an e-badge awarded for Javascript knowledge and learn more details about how that knowledge was gained and by what organization. MacArthur has gained buy-in from heavy hitters including NASA, Intel and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting who’ve offered aid in the badge competition.

Prototype design for the new credential line will wrap up in March 2012 when the foundation plans to award a total of $2 million to several dozen winners, organizers said.

Whether these ‘job-hunters’ badges gain the notoriety and significance of their cloth and metal brethren worn on the uniforms of America’s youth remains to be seen. 


Silicon Valley and Tech Jobs A Strength Amid Uneven Regional Employment

The economy of the multi-segmented San Francisco Bay Area is ever-so-slowly rebounding as are other regions across the nation, but one thing it has that very few areas do: a rock-steady employment rise fueled by Silicon Valley’s tech industry.

That seems to be the overriding theme of a city-by-city analysis of employment and unemployment data culled by research firm Collaborative Economics as reported recently in the Wall Street Journal.

According to this new research, the Silicon Valley and certain pockets of San Francisco have been the fastest to pull out of the recession based on job recovery signs of its signature trade, that of the technical nature. These figures tend to balance out not so great news coming out of other Bay Area cities - particularly the East Bay, which lacks a technical industry presence and continues to see mounting job losses.

Giant headquartered firms including Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. have been recruiting at a record pace recently while hiring at startups has picked up as well.

While much of the hiring activity has been centered in Silicon Valley tentpole cities such as Mountain View, Cupertion and Palo Alto, certain neighborhoods in San Francisco are also on the rise with heavyweights such as Twitter Inc. and Zynga Inc. moving in.

“The Bay Area recovery is a tech recovery,” said Stephen Levy, an economist at the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

Unemployment in the Bay Area dropped to 10.1 percent in September, down from 11.3 percent a year ago and about the same difference from California’s rate of 11.4 percent, according to the state’s Employment Development Department and Collaborative Economics. National unemployment figures remained lower at 8.8 percent.


U.S. Senate Talks Cyber Safety; More Good News for Security Pros

IT pros targeting roles in the security sector got more good news with word that the U.S. plans to take up cybersecurity legislation in the coming year.

As failures in the cyber defenses of businesses and the U.S. government mount, leaders in the U.S. Senate recently announced plans to push for a wide-ranging cyber bill to fight online fraud, espionage and intellectual property theft, according to a Reuters report.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a letter to Republican leader Mitch McConnell, said a comprehensive bill covering such items has been in the works for the past half-year and will be put to the test whether or not both parties can reach agreement on it.

This latest news comes on the heels of recent findings of multiple surveys showing global security concerns and increased reliance on cloud computing and mobile technology push security to the top of the heap for attractive IT skill sets for job seekers.


CIO Touts IT Prospects, Teamwork and Security Expertise

“The IT market has certainly picked up in the past year. IT can be a very challenging and rewarding area and I feel that opportunity abounds.”

So says Dennis Hodges, CIO of Michigan-based Inteva Products, in the latest ‘IT Leader Career Advice Q&A’ column in Computerworld.

Asked to note what qualities Hodges looks for when hiring for his own team, he said the ability to work well with others is key in the team-oriented environments of today.

“Another is the ability to look at IT as a service and understand how we support the business, even if a person is an infrastructure specialist,” Hodges said.

Hodges was also asked the skills he expects to be in high demand as more firms turn to cloud computing.

He noted that two separate cloud environments, public and private, must be considered with strong support skills and advanced capabilities from the server, storage and networking side along with the expected security and firewall expertise. 


Apple Seeks Cloud Experts

Apple Inc. is recruiting IT pros with cloud computing know-how, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal.

The company has been seeking out senior-level executives with expertise in Web-based software in recent weeks and doled out similar expectations to its recruiters, according to several people familiar with the situation.

This news is the latest subtle signal that the company is paving the way for its customer base to access digital content in ways beyond its historically successful downloadable software. 

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