Companies Need Skilled IT Professionals – and are Upping the Ante to Attract Them
Debra Auerbach, CareerBuilder Writer
Over the past few years, as the economy has slowly been recovering from the recent recession, some industries are bouncing back more quickly than others. The information technology industry is one of them.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, during the recession (formally defined as occurring from December 2007 to June 2009), the industry lost only one percent nationally of its workforce in 2009 but otherwise maintained employment.* By 2010, employment had recovered and was higher than it had been in 2008. More recently, in a CareerBuilder study at the start of 2013, 27 percent of national hiring managers said they expected to hire full-time, permanent employees for IT roles in 2013, one of the highest percentages of any field.
This boom isn’t just concentrated in one area of the U.S. In fact, companies from coast to coast are feeling the positive impact of the increased demand for IT services. According to data from Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., the metro areas with the highest demand for IT workers (2013 job openings at all levels) include: Washington, D.C. (11,226 openings); New York (8,786); Seattle (5,661); Boston (4,921); and Dallas (4,855). Conditions in your local area may vary.
Demand Outweighing the Supply
As the industry experiences rapid growth, a skills gap has emerged. This means the demand for qualified candidates outweighs the supply because employers can’t find talent with the right business acumen to fill their open roles. According to a separate CareerBuilder global skills gap study, employers in 7 of the 10 largest world economies (which includes the U.S.) say IT positions are among the hardest to fill. A study released by workforce and staffing solutions company Kelly Services found that the average number of national advertised vacancies at all levels – from entry level to the most advanced positions - in the computer and mathematical science occupational category continually outnumbers job seekers by more than 3:1.
John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of technology staffing solutions, knows firsthand that it’s difficult for organizations to recruit highly skilled IT talent right now. “Technology now touches every part of a business, and as a result, a large number of IT professionals are needed. On the other side of that, there aren’t enough highly qualified candidates.”
Who is Most in Demand?
While IT professionals of all specialties are in need, some areas of expertise are especially in demand. “According to [Robert Half Technology’s] Q2 Hiring Index, networking, applications development and data/database management professionals are the job areas most challenging to find skilled professionals,” Reed says. “As firms continue to invest in technology, they require skilled networking professionals who can ensure that a firm’s infrastructure, from hardware to software to wireless, is fully functional. As firms gather increasing amounts of data on customers, database managers are needed to find the best ways to store, organize and manage that data.”
Reed also notes that the expanding integration of Internet technologies into business has resulted in a growing need for specialists who can develop and support applications. “Mobile applications developers – those who create applications for phones, tablets and laptop computers – are in especially high demand.”
So What Makes a Desirable Candidate?
One might wonder, with the millions of Americans looking for employment today, why are IT companies having such difficulty finding the right candidates? It’s because employers are looking for workers with the right mix of education and skills that can help keep their company on the cutting edge. According to EMSI, the average education level required for the 11 occupations that make up the IT industry ranges from an associate degree to a doctoral degree. This shows that higher education may be one of the keys to unlocking a career in the IT industry, but the education extends beyond just IT skills. Employers want workers who can use those technical skills to achieve larger business goals.
Soft skills – a combination of personal qualities, habits, attitudes, and social graces – are important too, because they help make a candidate well rounded and more desirable to businesses. “While technical skills are of course important, what we’re seeing now is a huge premium being placed on soft skills,” Reed notes. “Organizations need IT professionals who are not only technically proficient, but can also clearly communicate highly technical information to other business units. Companies also place a premium on IT professionals who have a solid grasp on business and can help use IT to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and ultimately contribute to profitability.”
What Companies are Doing to Attract Top Talent
It’s clear that desirable IT candidates have a degree in an IT-related field and through that training and experience have acquired the right combination of technical and soft skills needed to succeed in the business world.
IT powerhouses, including Facebook, Twitter and Google have made headlines (and changed the IT workplace) for offering such perks as catered meals, dry cleaning service, haircuts, gym memberships and game rooms to name just a few. They once were also generous with vacation time and telecommuting, with many offering flexibility to work remotely as often as desired - – although that’s changing as employers demand more face to face interaction. They know the value of a highly skilled worker and want to make their company’s working environment attractive to potential employees.
*These are national projections covering all levels of experience; conditions in your area may be different.
Image Credit: Flickr/JD Hancock