U.S. Technology Labor Pool Stagnant Due to Skills Shortage, Study Finds

Don Tennant

It makes a lot of unemployed U.S. IT workers crazy when they hear reports of an ongoing IT skills shortage in this country. But the newly released results of a survey conducted by the Society For Human Resource Management adds more weight to the already substantial body of evidence indicating that the skills shortage is not only real, but increasingly systemic.

The findings of the survey of nearly 3,500 HR professionals, released on March 12, showed that the top three most difficult positions to fill are scientists (88 percent), engineers (86 percent), and high-skilled technical, such as programmers (85 percent). In the labor market overall, 66 percent of organizations that are hiring full-time staff said they’re having difficulty recruiting for specific job openings, up from 52 percent in 2011. Other key findings:

  • Organizations in the high-tech industry are more likely than those in the finance, health, manufacturing, professional services and state or local government industries to believe that they are facing global competition for hard-to-fill jobs.
  • The most common basic knowledge skills gaps are writing in English (55 percent), mathematics (38 percent), reading comprehension (31 percent) and spoken English language (29 percent). The top four applied skills gaps are critical thinking/problem solving (53 percent), professionalism/work ethic (46 percent), written communications (41 percent) and leadership (38 percent).
  • Twenty-four percent of organizations have hired workers from outside the U.S., the same percentage as in 2011.
  • Thirty percent of organizations indicated that in the last 12 months they had made major strategic changes involving the use of technology (e.g., robotics, computerized systems, software technologies) that affect the work of employees, and 10 percent plan to do so in the next 12 months.

SHRM outlined the impact that the skills shortage can be expected to have on hiring organizations:

  • Global competition for skilled and educated employees is likely to increase in the years ahead. Larger organizations in particular could increase their numbers of hires from outside the United States. Businesses in the STEM fields are likely to look outside the United States for the needed workers, as is already occurring in the high-tech industry.
  • HR professionals may need to convince hiring managers that staffing for some jobs will be more difficult than expected. This is especially true of STEM jobs. In particular, the high-tech and manufacturing industries are experiencing difficulty recruiting for certain positions.  HR professionals may need to work with their organizational leaders to come up with more effective compensation packages for hard-to-fill jobs.
  • Many organizations may have to boost their training investments to build qualified talent from within. Lack of relevant qualifications and competition for talent are the top reasons HR professionals give for difficulty in hiring qualified full-time employees; training existing employees can help more of them qualify for hard-to-fill jobs and also acts as a retention tool. More organizations will collaborate with educational institutions to create a more highly qualified local talent pool. 

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Mar 22, 2013 12:59 AM BT1024 BT1024  says:
Don, Please take a look at the following articles. What are your thoughts regarding those articles ?: 1) "America's Real Jobs Gap", a review of the book "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It" by Beryl Lieff Benderly: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2012_10_05/caredit.a1200112 1a) Noted book, by Peter Cappelli, professor of management and director of the Wharton School'€™s Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania, is available here: http://wdp.wharton.upenn.edu/books/why-good-people-cant-get-jobs/ 1b) Excerpt from Beryl Lieff Benderly's review: "...need to read it, but so do many others including government and educational policymakers, university career advisers, recruiters, job seekers, and journalists who help perpetuate the skill-shortage myth." 2) "A Size That Fits All for the Science-and-Technology Pipeline" by By Hal Salzman and B. Lindsay Lowell: http://chronicle.com/article/A-Real-Fix-for-Science-and/128421/ 2a) Excerpt from the noted article: "So, given a steady supply, why do companies report difficulty in finding idea workers? Listen carefully..." Reply
Mar 22, 2013 1:27 AM Wayne M. Wayne M.  says:
You actually believe what HR people say? The same idiots who don't know one language from another and therefore aren't qualified to actually determine who is competent, let alone if there's a shortage? Reply
Mar 22, 2013 7:29 PM Mathematics Mathematics  says:
Don, your conclusion is based on junk science. All studies that have been done use legitimate statistical analysis have shown there is no tech worker shortage. Also, if there is such a shortage why are salaries going down or stagnant? In a shortage, prices increase rapidly. If you ask a group of drunks if there is a booze shortage, many will say yes. But the supply of alcohol is robust. Perhaps it's not a penny a beer as the drunks wish, but there is no shortage. Reply
Mar 22, 2013 8:43 PM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:
I don't doubt that it is difficult for HR folks to find the perfect match. They are required to find "plug and play" developers who require no training and already have every last skill they seek. Employers are very picky, and if an HR staffer must leave no skill unturned it would be difficult. Technology is rapidly changing. Mobile is a game changer. The answer is to invest in our own, not flood the market and disencentivize people from learning new skills. A recent survey of IT pros indicated that just 11% had any company provided training as a benefit. When companies are investing in their workers and training and still can't find the skills then let's listen. Until then, they are simply trying to pass the buck. They want all of the reward, but they want none of the risk or cost of training. Reply
Mar 24, 2013 1:56 AM Dolores Dolores  says:
There's a talent shortage all right, but it's not in the IT department. It's in the HR department. Those people couldn't find their butts with both hands and they have no idea about technology. Reply
Mar 27, 2013 2:00 PM Wakjob Wakjob  says:
Looks like some NASSCOM $ got to Society For Human Resource Management. Reply
Apr 2, 2013 10:56 PM BT1024 BT1024  says:
Don, I overlooked this article "Live From D.C., It's High-Skill Immigration Reform!": http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2013_03_01/caredit.a1300030 Any thoughts ? Reply
Apr 4, 2013 11:21 PM BT1024 BT1024  says:
Don, Please take a look at the following article: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/businessdesk/2013/04/ask-the-headhunter-the-talent.html From the referenced article: "While the economy has put massive numbers of talented workers on the street, HR nonetheless complains it can't find the workers it needs. That's no surprise when HR's idea of finding talent is to resort to database searches and keyword filtering, which are disastrously inadequate methods for finding and attracting the best hires." Reply
Apr 6, 2013 6:28 PM Wakjob Wakjob  says:
Let me guess, NASSCOM paid for the study - or else "Society For Human Resource Management" == a communist think tank that doesn't want Americans making more than people in other countries. There are 40 million unemployed or underemployed people in USA. Many of which created silicon valley. Stop the lies. Reply

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