IT Skills Shortage: Employers Say It's Real


Companies that employ holders of H-1Bs or other visas that allow American companies to employ foreign workers often claim this hiring strategy is necessary because there simply aren't enough U.S. technology professionals with the right kinds of skills, a stance that enrages H-1B opponents who insist there are plenty of qualified workers.


Earlier this month I wrote a post in which I wondered whether IT employers were too picky, and suggested companies might better satisfy their needs by employing talented IT generalists instead of focusing on narrow skill sets. Given the fast pace of technology, it's a given that job requirements will remain fluid for some time to come so companies might do better training existing staff than hiring new folks every time a new tech trend comes down the pipeline.


Yet there may be more to the skills issue than unrealistic employer expectations. And concerns over skills shortages aren't confined to the United States.


Research from the CBI, which bills itself as "the UK's leading business organization, speaking for some 240,000 businesses that together employ around a third of the private sector workforce," suggests British employers don't think their work forces possess needed IT skills. According to a silicon.com story about the survey, 45 percent of respondents said they are experiencing difficulties in recruiting workers with appropriate STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) skills, and 59 percent say it will be problem over the next three years.


It's not just potential hires companies see as lacking in skills. Sixty-six percent of businesses expressed concern about their current staff's IT abilities. Forty-three percent of respondents said they had provided remedial IT training to their existing work force, while 22 percent offered it to entry-level workers fresh out of school or college. I may be misinterpreting, but these results seem to involve employees whose use technology in their work -- and that's most employees, of course -- rather than those who make their livings deploying and maintaining technology.


Similar numbers are contained in Harvey Nash's latest CIO survey. Fifty-eight percent of global respondents said they expect to face an IT skills shortage this year, and 65 percent said this will negatively affect corporate growth. Interestingly, the three skills most in demand are business analysis, mentioned by 44 percent of respondents; project management (37 percent) and architecture (35 percent). All three of these involve a blend of IT and broader business skills and also benefit from being performed by someone with deep insights into a corporate culture -- suggesting they aren't good candidates for outsourcing. I think the same is true for two of the other top 10 sought-after skills, business relationship management (mentioned by 31 percent of respondents) and IT strategy (28 percent).