The ‘IT Skills Shortage’ myth, busted?

March 10, 2008

Most recently the theory of a growing shortage was bolstered by a December 2007 Gartner report entitled “The Quest for Talent – You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” One of the report’s authors, Andy Kyte, went so far as to say in a statement that “(t)his is a massive and devastating skills shortage, and it is coming when there is a surge in the number of projects that are required from IT.”

But there is a growing resistance to this “common knowledge” of IT labor shortages—a number of economists, academics and industry experts refute these claims, stating that there simply isn’t any hard evidence to support the idea that there is or soon will be an IT skills shortage. 

Good points in the article:

Look at the job ads wanting you know, 15 skills at 10+ years experience each. Can’t find somebody like that (to work for $30 / hr especially), so that’s a shortage!

I’m one of the 40%.

A point to add here is, it’s a common complaint out there that you need IT people ‘who know the business’, and really, who do not act like traditional IT people. That is, people who enroll in technical courses of study are not choosing to enroll in business school as undergraduates, yet they are blamed for not having the business background. In fact, it has seemed that actual IT / technical skills have been deprecated in favor of business knowledge / skills.

I thought it was all about the skills

Meanwhile, universities are also set on perpetuating the shortage perception because they themselves are promoting their business interests, Hira said.

During the last tech boom many universities staffed up in order to churn out enough students to meet IT’s then-growing demand for applicants. Now that that has leveled off many universities are overstaffed for the current crop of students. They want to put students in seats in order to keep the lights on.

Yes, with declining enrollments departments have to do something to get the enrollments up. A large part of this is the watering down of technical (CompSci, IT) degree programs. For example, I understand that at Carnegie-Mellon you can get a CompSci degree without taking a single programming course! IT students are told that things like programming, etc. aren’t that important. This feeds back into the point made above about business skills. Are truly technical people needed in such numbers for there to be a shortage?


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