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Shortage of IT Personnel : Myth or Reality

Shortage of IT personnel – Myth or Reality
The United States came close to a severe recession which sent global markets into a tailspin. The news was bad across the world and hordes of employees were laid of from work. The news media plastered the waves with unemployment figures, 10% at one time and 8% now. Here I am in the recruiting profession, desperately looking for people to hire in several open jobs. So why can I not find people to hire for my clients when there is extreme unemployment in the country? The answer is that I am looking for IT professionals, computer engineers, system administrators and the like who don’t seem to be affected by the recession.

So on the one hand there is this news media blitz that there are people looking for work for the asking and on the other hand qualified IT talent is not easily available; many are fully employed and must be lured for a better opportunity which pays more, or is geographically closer to where they live, or lets them work from home or better still provides them with exceptional benefits such as free healthcare for them and their families – yes that is true – no deduction on the paycheck for healthcare.

To all those hiring managers out there looking for IT talent, let me say – yes their is a shortage of IT talent in the country. Is this shortage across the board? the answer is no. If you were looking for a help desk I would probably find you one but if you have something to do with mobile or cloud technologies the rates are higher and the shortage of personnel is real. Add to this your requirement of US Citizenship the pool of candidates gets smaller, and throw in a government clearance and now you are really in a tight spot – you will pay a premium and still have difficulty in finding candidates. Those of you who are in the Federal sector already know this. Many of your vendors are hiring from each other.

Most US born candidates who are citizens look for permanent opportunities. They want a career not a job. They want a family, a home and a good work environment to be as productive as they can be. A contracting opportunity which may last 6 months to an year does not serve their purpose, unless the pay is exorbitant or the candidate has an aptitude and desire to do short term gigs or has an inclination to run himself as a small business with a great deal of independence. Contracting opportunities perhaps are neither good for cash strapped corporations or the government with diminishing budgets. They are worse for the life style of employees. The constant lingering uncertainty in the life of an employee negatively impacts their work life balance and family life in multiple ways. To the corporation and government it does not lend the accountability they desire from their employees.

The Universities in the United States do not produce enough technically qualified candidates to meet the demand of government and industry. Wages and salary are a function of supply and demand, not the ease and difficulty of the skill required. So if tomorrow there is a huge demand for help desk candidates and there are fewer candidates in the market then businesses and government will be paying a premium to compensate for the shortage.

I have heard many times we should train software engineers from other vocations. This has its limitations, and though looks like a great political idea, I have doubts that 16 to 18 years of math or science education can be imbibed by a short industry certification or course. In some cases where programming is not involved this may be possible. In other areas which are complex; education cannot be encapsulated to reduce multiple years of education into a couple of weeks.

The result of these shortages of IT personnel also are revealing in other actions by industries and even government. The dreaded exporting of jobs and the unpopular importing of candidates from overseas are what industries as well as the government are resorting to, wherever they can. Industry and Government do this to keep the cost down of their products. However there are no good solutions for Government where secrecy and clearances are mandatory. The only answer to this problem is to pay a premium for the candidate, provided he or she is willing to have their background investigated – I know – that some do not like that idea. Companies who undertake your projects on a turnkey basis, too face the same dilemma – and they have the harder task of making a profit for themselves out of the venture. In some cases technical skills and educational requirements are being diluted just to have a candidate who has a clearance.

The best bet, therefore, for businesses and government, at the cutting edge of technology is to contact a professional recruiter, not a sales person, and work in consultation with them, so that they can find the optimum talent for the optimum price within the United States. In-sourcing to pass on your talent problem to another entity is just that – passing the buck. Letting finance drive what you pay for the talent you need, goes against the principle of supply and demand. It is far better to not start an IT project then to spend money and get straddled mid way due to shortage of talent or lack of expertise of the unqualified people that you do have.

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