Can 'Geek Chic' Help Reverse IT Staffing Shortage?

Ann All

Many folks in the technology industry have the same low opinion of CNN commentator Lou Dobbs as Dobbs has of offshoring.


In a MercuryNews.com article, Phil Bond, president and CEO of the Information Technology Association of America, singles Dobbs out by name. In it, Bond says pundits like Dobbs have helped create a negative -- and erroneous -- impression of dim prospects for folks pursuing careers in IT.


Many companies are actually adding IT staff in a job market that a Robert Half Technology VP says is "as healthy as it's been in a while," with 14 percent of CIOs saying they'd like to bring on new hires this quarter, Baseline reports.


Such healthy hiring, combined with a steep decline in enrollment in college computer sciences courses, is creating a shortage that has companies and professional organizations scrambling for ideas on how to attract more young folks to the field. e-skills UK, for example, is launching an initiative called Revitalize IT, according to silicon.com. The association hopes to encourage pro-IT attitudes among young people and to promote closer relationships between tech companies and universities.


The problem with such well-meaning efforts, opines Bond in the MercuryNews.com article, is that they are "almost unavoidably un-hip." He offers a more novel suggestion: Offer a $1 million prize to the middle-schooler that can come up with the best idea to interest his peers in math and science. Make sure he or she uses video to sell the idea, so it can be disseminated on YouTube, MySpace and all of the other sites cool enough to appeal to young people.


Bond even has a patron in mind to fund this initiative: Google, of course. After all, he writes, "if (it) can find $30 million to help launch the next moon shot. ..."


Oddly enough, network TV executives -- a group not exactly known for their hipness -- may have beaten the teens to the punch. "Geeks are the new cool," says an NBC Entertainment executive vice president in a recent Wired story.


NBC has what the story calls "perhaps the most hotly anticipated, new geek TV show" in this fall's lineup with "Chuck," a sitcom whose protagonist is a computer nerd. Among the new shows featuring similarly geeky characters are "The Big Bang Theory" on CBS and "The IT Crowd," a British show expected to migrate to the United States.

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Oct 1, 2007 8:54 AM Phaseal Freckleton Phaseal Freckleton  says:
How to you incent kids who see such volatility in the marketplace where IT people are concerned. Companies will downsize at the drop of a dime. Technology gets more and more powerful every year and the tools to manage them get better and better thus requiring fewer people to manage them. The high paying jobs are fewer and farther between today and there has been huge pressure on the IT wage over the last 6 years or so. Students are aware of these trends so are looking at alternative carreer choices that might be more stable in their eyes. I would be scared too if I saw that the pay was dropping and the lack of job security everywhere in the IT industry. Reply
Oct 1, 2007 9:57 AM shawn kalin shawn kalin  says:
Yes, onshoring, homeshoring is back.Though, I think non-verbal help desk, IT support will continue to move to india, mexico etc.regards,shawn kalin Reply
Oct 2, 2007 9:38 AM Andrew Andrew  says:
I think to say the tools are getting better and higher paying jobs fewer etc - I think it depends on the environment. I recently moved intro a massive environment and the work on Citrix and VMware etc - is huge. There are gazillions of opportunities I wouldn't even know about if I was working there - they aren't even advertised. The industry is on the up and up here too, in Australia. In a selfish way I really don't mind if they can't find the people to learn IT - it just provides more job security for all of us already there. We don't need another flood like a few years back, thank you very much. Reply
Oct 2, 2007 9:58 AM lawrence beasley lawrence beasley  says:
I had to read this 3 times to make sure I was still reading the same nonsense -- more justification of the trend to "commoditize" IT."Many folks," and Phil Bond, allegedly, do have a "low" opinion of Lou Dobbs -- if you look at the IT industry from their point of view. Maximize profit/revenue at the expense of (domestic) IT talent, by outsourcing (cheap) or shipping services offshore (MUCH cheaper). And "liking" to add staff is not the same as adding staff.Hence the need to "convert" middle and high schoolers -- that way they can reset the industry base rates on a group that doesn't know what the value of their talent really is.Last time I checked, CS and Engineering schools are doing just fine -- all industries have cyclic periods; but the real shortage is in IT professionals willing to take wage cuts equal to (or better than!) the difference in wages of offshore/outsource shops.Lou (Dobbs) may be a little over-exuberant, but he's right on target -- too bad (for them) that the secret is out. Reply
Oct 5, 2007 9:14 AM Randy Noga Randy Noga  says:
I've been in the IT Industry since 1979. More than 50% of the people I've known in the industry; managers, technicians, and even recruiters have left the industry and moved on to Non-IT careers, probably in the last five years. That being said, why would anyone going to school want to pursue a career in IT? At the same time, the supply and demand curve is rapidly changing. Companies will begin to pay premium prices in the next five years for entry level personnel; similar to the late 70's and early 80's; when I was treated better as a relocating (Cobol) Programmer than a relocating Director of IT ten years later (within the same company). Reply
Oct 8, 2007 9:43 AM Pedro Pedro  says:
From the topic on your article, you have not address the question that was asked. The true answer is :- can any one person or group of individuals resolve a much larger problem. Within the confines of a locale, you may find a partial solution, however, we have too look deeply in ourselves as see who we really are, point blank, before any such questions can be attempted. Being in this industry since the late seventies, there have been so much bull, the brains have gone offshore where the living is different and the resources are plentiful, I am certain if you pay her a couple of millions, solution to IT problems will still be there, so why would the younger generations want to put the hard study time, let them learn to cover work with the common bull and soon enough they would be offered a position just like hers, it all part of the good all round home club with the groups. OH!! What good is there in opinions, only fools have them, including the ones presented, knowing that brings fortt some wisdom,,.. Reply
Oct 10, 2007 8:32 AM Dean Mayer Dean Mayer  says:
I know in the U.S., and I believe to a lesser degree in Canada, the I.T. field has been impacted by a movement to send I.T. jobs off shore.I'm not completely sure what the environment is in the U.S. but I believe a largely unexplored issue is the manner in which companies treat I.T. staff. Regardless of what companies may say publicly, I believe that most if not all companies see I.T. only as a cost center. Much like the maintenance department in a manufacturing sector plant.As such I.T. departments are continually fighting for their lives. Given that, tell me why any young person looking to select a career would want to work in such an environment.I'm not suggesting that businesses give I.T. a free reign, but until businesses are willing to change the way they think about I.T. I do not see masses banging at the door for I.T. related jobs. Reply

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