The Coming IT Labor Crisis

Michael Vizard
Slide Show

Top Ten IT Labor Issues for 2011

A list of the top 10 challenges facing IT workers today.

There was a time when no one could imagine that autoworkers would be scrambling to find jobs. A trip to Detroit was a visit to a vast economic ecosystem all built around the manufacturing and distribution of cars, trucks and anything else that required wheels and an engine to run.

Then, of course, the entire auto market collapsed when global manufacturers started relying more on automation to cut costs and increase quality. Unfortunately, a lot of folks in the auto industry didn't really appreciate the full importance of this event, which is why Detroit is a very different place today than it was in the 1960s.

As we approach Labor Day, now might be a good time to take a look at what's happening in IT, because the parallels with the auto industry are striking. Globalization of IT services has arrived and IT automation, while still nascent, is upon us. No amount of complaining is going to change that reality; the question is how to best respond to it.

According to UC4 Software CEO Jason Liu, the need to cut costs in a downturn while at the same time increasing revenues by adding additional service is spurring a lot of the interest in IT automation. Liu says UC4, which provides a suite of IT automation tools, has seen a sharp increase in interest from companies trying to automate routine IT functions to better cope with the complexities of virtualization and cloud computing. But just as importantly, Liu says customers are also trying to automate entire business processes that span multiple applications. The reality of the situation, however, is that they can't afford to keep throwing IT people at the problem, so they naturally look for ways to automate as many functions as possible.

None of this, notes Liu, is about breaking the back of the IT staff. It's really a productivity issue that happens to affect IT, which today is at the root of most modern business processes. To be successful in this environment, Liu says IT organizations need to really understand what's in a particular application workload, and just as importantly, its relationship to every other application workload. That's not a task that can be easily accomplished in the era of the cloud without relying more on IT automation, notes Liu.

More reliance on increased automation may not be what every politician wants to hear, but it's a new jobs creation reality that affects people both inside and out of IT. In the IT sector, it's estimated that there are roughly 400,000 open IT positions that many companies are having trouble filling. Some of that may have as much to do with the salaries being offered as it does with the skills needed to fill those jobs. It's hard, for example, to find people who are fully certified on virtualization technologies. But at the same time, it's also becoming apparent that a lot of routine IT tasks associated with configuring and managing applications and systems will soon be automated. That presents the entire IT community with a significant challenge in that many folks may soon find that their current skill set has been made obsolete.

With the coming of Labor Day, a lot of IT folks are looking forward to some well-deserved days off. But when it comes to the current IT job market, the outlook is at best mixed. There's still a lot of demand for IT folks, but unless IT people keep their skills current on the latest technologies, they may soon find that the current level of demand for their skills might not always be there.

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Sep 5, 2011 9:52 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

I've seen more job openings, but companies aren't desperate enough to raise their offerings.  The jobs I've been offered are essentially lateral moves - so no significant change in salary or anything that would sweeten the deal enough that I'd give up working with a group of people I enjoy working with. 

I'm senior level and given my skill-set I won't have a problem staying employed.  However the people who have it tough are junior level people trying to get in the door and senior level people with obsolete skills.

If there were truly a shortage, companies would be offering some really attractive salaries and benefits.  They aren't bad offerings, but I wouldn't call them anything close to "desperate" given how selective employers are and how the salary offerings haven't changed much over the last 3-4 years.

I would like to know where this 400,000 figure is coming from.  I don't believe anyone following employment trends believes that estimate is in the ballpark.  The article you cited said "by some estimates" yet I've been unable to determine who "some" is or are. 

I estimate there is about 20-30 IT jobs out there.  I've pulled that number out of thin air just now, but in your next article I fully expect you to write that "by some estimates there are only 20-30 IT jobs to be filled nation wide".  Fair is fair.

Sep 5, 2011 12:06 PM hoapres hoapres  says:

The only shortage is people willing to work for free.  Nor is that an exaggeration as people scramble around competing for unpaid interns or even work for equity only in startups that are likely future shutdowns.

When CompTIA crys shortage, it is just a way to push useless certifications. A CompTIA A+ cert is completely worthless in this dismal job market.

40,000 open IT jobs.

Come on now.

Let's get real.

If we REALLY had 40,000 open IT jobs then everyone in "the business" would know about it and "rushing like mad" trying to get one.

In case anyone doesn't know this is the worst economy since the 1930s and is not getting any better.

Sep 6, 2011 6:34 AM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to Michael Vizard

A job ad is NOT a job.  The issue of the bogus Dice job count has been going around for years on the Dice discussion board.

Realistically, 90%+ of the Dice job ads are "fake".  At one point I posted on the Dice bulletin board  14 agencies competing for the same job.  Dice counts this as 14 jobs but in reality it is only one.

KForce (aka KFarce) will often take the same job in Phoenix, AZ but advertise the SAME job in 3 different locations to get more applicants.  Dice counts this as 3 jobs.

"No one in the know" takes the Dice job count seriously and it is a "running joke" in Silicon Valley about the "Dice job" count. 

At one point, Dice was running radio ads on KCBS in San Francisco claiming thousands of jobs which it made it out to be the laughingstock of Silicon Valley.  The ads were pulled.

I am not picking on Dice as EVERY job bulletin board simply ads up the number of job ads and claims them to be jobs.

Silicon Valley companies broadcasting is pretty well known.  A broadcast is when HR sends the same job req to multiple agencies.  EBay broadcasts to 20+ agencies.  Cisco broadcasts to over 15 agencies.

Sep 6, 2011 7:25 AM Michael Vizard Michael Vizard  says: in response to R. Lawson

We can go back and forth about specific numbers all day long. right now claims to have over 80,000 IT job openings. doesn't say how many but it claims to have thousands. Allowing for a fair amount of duplication in those listings, you can pretty much say that Dice and between them have at least 100,000 IT listings. Nor is it likely that between them they have 100 percent of the job listing market.

You can also argue about the quality and pay rate for those jobs, but a fair number of them appear to be senior positions.

Sep 7, 2011 1:54 AM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to hoapres

Perhaps the best discussion regarding bogus job counts is the following thread from the Dice discussions

It's a classic case of Garbage In, Garbage Out.

The Garbage In being job board "job counts"

The Garbage Out being "labor shortages" "The booming high tech field" based on the "job counts" being the Garbage In.

As I said before use some common sense.  If we really had 400,000 IT jobs available then we would not be reading about all of those that can't find a job.  Of course, if the company is looking for a nonexistent purple squirrel then that won't ever be found.

Sep 7, 2011 8:00 AM vDave vDave  says:

I disagree.  I used to think the same thing many years ago when Microsoft announced the "Zero Administration Kit", lol.  With the release of ZAK, I thought my days were numbered in IT, but boy was I wrong.  I'm seeing extremely high demand right now for Virtualization and AD skills.  Anyone that has a senior virtualization skill-set right now is turning down lucrative jobs by the dozen (I know I am) and I really don't see any end in sight. In fact, I see the IT landscape getting much more complicated, not less.  With that said, maybe the sky is falling somewhere, but it certainly isn't in my world.     

Sep 8, 2011 12:04 PM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to vDave

If you are fortunate enough to figure out what the next "hot field" is going to be then while YOU might do well that won't be the case for the vast majority.

The topic of this thread is about general IT conditions and not a specific individual. 

It's great that you are prosperous but I just don't believe that we have 400,000 open IT jobs.  If we had that many jobs then we would not have all these people looking for work.

Nor are "senior virtualization skills" in such demand that you have a dozen job offers,  Those companies can get a "senior virtualization skill" person extremely quickly and will have over 50 qualified applicants within a couple of days


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