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

    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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