The Real State of IT Labor

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Although IT labor is hardly organized in the traditional sense, a lot of folks in IT use the same kind of rhetoric as labor union members.

That's understandable because even though most IT professionals tend to think of themselves as self-sufficient masters of their own destinies, they are not immune to many of the financial and technical forces at work across our economy.

As we approach Labor Day, many of these factors, such as shifting of jobs overseas and the rise of automation tools that eliminate the need for certain classes of workers, are especially pronounced.

We could, of course, waste an inordinate amount of time lamenting this state of affairs. But IT professionals need to take control of their own destinies. Some guy in India is trying to provide for his family in a global economy just as much as any U.S. citizen. And the company you work for is not likely to fund the training that an IT professional will need to stay competitive.


The good news is that there is a lot of demand for certain types of IT professionals. For example, IT professionals with virtualization skills are in high demand and can command a salary premium. But the company you work for is more likely to hire somebody who already has those skills than it is to spend the money to retrain its own workers in the hopes they will stay on afterward.


And if they can get away with it, they will hire someone younger, but not because of the age of their existing workers. Younger employees tend to work for less, and as an added bonus from the employer's perspective, they tend to be a little more enthusiastic. Simply put, the employer is making a cold calculation based on cost and willingness of youth to put in longer hours versus the cost of experience and the health care costs that go along with maintaining that experience. There's nothing personal about it, and loyalty doesn't factor into the equation; it's just the way capitalism works.

In the end, each individual IT professional must find his or her own economic way. For older workers, that frequently may mean consulting opportunities where they and a few partners run their own business. But the one thing that is for certain is that if IT professionals don't take responsibility for their own skills, they will soon discover how remorseless the immutable laws of supply and demand are.