Is Lack of Home-grown IT Talent Our Own Fault?

Susan Hall

As our economy returns to growth, I'm hearing over and over that the talent pool for tech jobs just isn't very deep. The whole immigration policy and immigrant "brain drain" controversy aside, there's the major issue of a shortage of home-grown talent.


In its monthly report, Dice reports there are more tech jobs on its site on any given day than there are computer science grads prepared to fill them. It says that ratio is 3 to 1 in California, but also among its "Top10" states for talent shortages are New Jersey, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington, Connecticut, Virginia and Washington, D.C.


It quotes Ann Hunter of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology saying:

There are easily two or three jobs for every computer science grad. Easy.

And Dr. Tim Lindquist, a professor of computer science and engineering at Arizona State:

I can't tell you the last time I had a student, even some of our poorer students, tell me they had trouble finding a job.

I've written about efforts to make computer science more attractive to students, but there's also the issue of providing the education for those who want to pursue it.


Ed Lazowska, a longtime University of Washington computer science professor, has been railing about the lack of capacity at the UW, saying that program is oversubscribed by four to one. Meanwhile, Western Washington University's computer science department has been notified that it might be on the chopping block amid budget cutting, and Eastern Washington University is evaluating its graduate program in computer science, GeekWire reports.


Meanwhile, in this post at Xconomy, Lazowska report that his seniors are being offered salaries straight out of college as high as $105,000. The emails he quotes in that piece will just blow you away at the opportunities these kids are offered, such as this:

I'm a senior who transferred to UW from Shoreline Community College. My employment history is zilch-a little retail, that's it. Yet [top tech company] offered me a $30/hr internship just based on the fact that I'm in UW CSE.

And this one:

Last summer I worked for [top tech company] in Seattle. At some point I realized that they had offices in awesome cities all over the world: Sydney, Dublin, Zurich, Paris, London. I told the recruiters I wanted to work at one of these offices. They were able to secure me a position in London. I've always wanted to study abroad, but I was worried how well it would fit with computer science. As it turns out, I got a better deal than studying abroad: working abroad.

Writes Lazowska:

Our state will always be a net importer of tech talent-otherwise the talented computer science students who grow up in Nebraska won't have any place to work. The critical question is, do Washington kids who desire to prepare themselves for tech careers have the opportunity to do so? ... the answer is a resounding "No!" ...
Our economy is creating great jobs, and they're going to other people's kids. Who suffers? The kids who grow up here, and the newer, smaller companies that must recruit locally.

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