IT Worker Shortages Reaching Critical Point

by Steven Ostrowski | Apr 11, 2012

The shortage of skilled information technology (IT) workers is fast approaching a critical point where it could negatively impact industry growth and prosperity. That dire message was delivered today by speakers on an IT workforce panel at CompTIA Colloquium, the annual gathering of leaders in the IT training and certification industry. 

The current supply of skilled IT workers in the United States is simply not enough, said Tania Lavin, market research manager, Allegis Group Inc. She cited a recent survey of IT executives, who were asked to identify their biggest barriers they face in successfully completing their initiatives and projects. A full 56 percent said the biggest barrier is the lack of staff.

One industry that’s starting to feel the pinch is healthcare.

The transformation of the nation’s healthcare system with an infusion of new IT solutions may be hampered by a shortage of qualified workers, according to Norma Morganti, executive director, Midwest Community College Health Information Technology Consortium. She cited a recent study that showed in the state of Texas alone, there is projected to be a shortage of 10,000 health IT workers by 2013.

“This is the crisis that’s brewing out there,” she added. “When it comes, it’s going to be very impactful.”

Morganti also sounded a positive note about the health IT field. Healthcare providers were fearful that IT workers would not understand healthcare and would be unable to support the meaningful use of electronic health records. “What they’re finding instead is that they can take people with great IT skills and teach them about the healthcare environment to work effectively,” she said.

IT Skills in High Demand

The toughest IT jobs to fill? Lavin said there is a severe shortage of enterprise architects, cloud architects, data architects, security specialists, business intelligence specialist and mobile application developers. In the past three months job postings for security analysts have increased by 51 percent; computer support specialists, 34 percent; and systems analysts, 33 percent. 

“It takes about 3.4 months to fill some of these hard-to-fill jobs, compared to 56 days for IT jobs overall,” Lavin added.

And the need isn’t going away. More than one-third of employers are adding headcount, according to the December 2011 TEKsystems IT Executive Outlook Survey.

The situation is even bleaker in Europe, said Alejandro Debenedet, international business relations director, PeopleCert Group. At a time when 23 million people are out of work in European Union countries, and the youth unemployment rate standards at 21 percent, there is a shortfall of people to fill 500,000 high-skilled jobs. That number is projected to reach 700,000 by 2015.

Lavin said companies are using more temporary hires to fill job openings and are offering higher salaries for some high-level positions. Companies also plan to train existing staff in new IT skills, but it’s unlikely they can address all their needs simply through retraining.

Debenedet outlined a three-tier pyramid of skill levels that are needed to address the issue:

  • Reading writing, math, science, IT literacy, language and other basic skills at the foundation level,
  • Occupational skills related to the specific needs of the job market at the mid-level, and
  • Global knowledge economy talents at the pinnacle.

“The time to act is now,” he urged. “We need government, industry, training organizations, all stakeholders working together.”

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