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IT Labor Shortage Is Just a Myth 619

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the also-roswell-and-jfk-and-high-fructose-corn-syrup dept.
buzzardsbay writes "For the past few years, we've heard a number of analysts and high-profile IT industry executives, Bill Gates and Craig Barrett among them, promoting the idea that there's an ever-present shortage of skilled IT workers to fill the industry's demand. But now there's growing evidence suggesting the "shortage" is simply a self-serving myth. "It seems like every three years you've got one group or another saying, the world is going to come to an end there is going to be a shortage and so on," says Vivek Wadhwa, a professor for Duke University's Master of Engineering Management Program and a former technology CEO himself. "This whole concept of shortages is bogus, it shows a lack of understanding of the labor pool in the USA.""
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IT Labor Shortage Is Just a Myth

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:03PM (#22702382)
    Raise your wages, the workers will come.

    The market will fix the problem. No need for special legislation or guest workers.
    • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:31PM (#22704044) Journal

      Why raise wages, when you can convince Congress there is a desperate shortage of labor, so that you can import labor from overseas and bully your workers over wages by tying a work visa to a stick and holding it in front of them?

      People need to read the statement for what it is. "There is a labor shortage [at the wage we are willing to pay]."

      • Yeah, whatever. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Monday March 10, 2008 @05:42PM (#22708480) Homepage Journal
        As somebody that has just being replaced by people working in India (hello chaps!) I can categorically tell you there are labour shortages in Western countries.

        I did the interviews, the people is just not there. As for myself I will take a few months off because I know there will be a job for me once I am rested and have done a few things I have in the back burner.

        The situation in the US is not the way you are portraying it. Foreign workers are well paid (by definition, given the kind of visa they need to enter the country) so they are not driving salaries down, and most importantly pay taxes and spend money in the local economy, which benefits without having invested a dime in the education of these individuals.

        The people driving salaries down are the ones working remotely and that never set foot in the country they are serving, very often using the infrastructure in that country, which was originally built to benefit the local population. That is what happened to me. I have no problem with this, I will have to take a lower salary most likely, but this is just natural given the savage competition to which we are being confronted (people in India are forced to work insane hours for a quarter of what we earn in the West, but fret no, salaries are going up and it is a matter of 3 or 4 years before they are comparable to Western standards, the turnover rate over there is atrocious, because techie people over there are not stupid: as soon as they get a better skill set they move on. In my experience this is at the very least 40% a year of attrition rate, so you always have a half competent group of people, half of which will leave very soon. Some companies are waking up to this fact, but some others are going ahead like a blinded lemming with suicidal thoughts).

        Techies in developed countries should be writing to politicians about why they are allowing people working remotely in machines based locally, offering services locally. If they are affecting the economy in such way, they should be taxed as if they were working locally, people working remotely get all the money but pay no taxes locally, while the other way around is nigh to impossible to set up shop.

        Or we should get free access to Indian and Chinese markets in order to compete in a fair basis. But our politicians are too busy wasting billions of dollars killing innocent people instead of investing in the future of our respective countries.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Foreign workers are well paid (by definition, given the kind of visa they need to enter the country) so they are not driving salaries down

          Of course they are - increased supply means lower prices.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ATMAvatar (648864)

          The situation in the US is not the way you are portraying it. Foreign workers are well paid (by definition, given the kind of visa they need to enter the country) so they are not driving salaries down

          Except [news.com] that [eetimes.com] you're [infoworld.com] wrong [gao.gov].

    • by minion (162631) on Monday March 10, 2008 @04:02PM (#22706962)
      ...Bill Gates and Craig Barrett among them, promoting the idea that there's an ever-present shortage of skilled IT workers to fill the industry's demand.
       
      I actually have to agree with Bill Gates for once... There is a shortable of skilled IT workers. Not of IT workers, but skilled IT workers. How many of you have to work other sysadmins from differnet companies? How many times do you want to go over there, and do it for them, because you think they're so inept that walking them through it on the phone is just too painfully slow.
       
      Skilled, the key word for today.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Raise your wages, the workers will come.

      The market will fix the problem. No need for special legislation or guest workers.

      I've got to play devil's advocate here, because I am painfully familiar with both sides of this issue through my personal experience. Is it not accurate to say that the market is fixing the problem? People willing to work for the wages currently offered are finding employment. From a global business perspective, lobbying for additional visas only does away with an artificial restriction on the worker pool, does it not?

      We don't have a special /right/ to the jobs here; and "globalization of the economy"

  • No myth here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jay-za (893059) * <jdollerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:03PM (#22702388) Homepage
    I can't speak for the US, but I can state that in South Africa we have a fair number of IT workers, a handful of which are actually worth anything, but on the whole not a shortage. The area of the market that DOES have a shortage, however, and a really massive one at that, is the Tester and Test Analyst side. We are struggling to get even halfway decent people.

    And even with this shortage, the IT academies and schools out there are churning out MCSE's by the truckfull - rather than getting useful skills, they are giving some poor schmuck a certification that means really little in the real world, and which doesn't really have a descent career path anymore..

    Testers, on the other hand, have a great job, good money, and a really flexible career. They also develop a lot of really useful business skills to augment their technical skills, and have no problems finding work.
    • Re:No myth here (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:13PM (#22702560) Journal

      And even with this shortage, the IT academies and schools out there are churning out MCSE's by the truckfull - rather than getting useful skills, they are giving some poor schmuck a certification that means really little in the real world, and which doesn't really have a descent career path anymore..


      MCSEs represent something far worse than that. They represent a severe compartmentalization of skills. After twenty years in the IT profession, I'm pretty much going to be forced to take my MCSE mainly because you just can't get a job. For some reason, management believes that this frivolous piece of paper means that a guy is some sort of uber-tech. Well, I've seen these uber-techs melt when they had to deal with a Bind server, or anything particularly weird or challenging.

      The real irony here is the most expertise I've seen out of the Microsoft side of things is the guys that can understand Redmond's insane licensing system.
      • Re:No myth here (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TheRealFixer (552803) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:46PM (#22703164)
        The real irony here is the most expertise I've seen out of the Microsoft side of things is the guys that can understand Redmond's insane licensing system.

        That's intentional. A good deal of MCSE training/testing has to do with licensing. MCSE's aren't intended to be technical geniuses. They're meant to be clones, indoctrinated to look at things the way Microsoft wants you to look at them. That's why the key to any Microsoft test, if you get stuck on a question that seems to have more than one correct answer, is to look at it from the perspective of what would make Microsoft the most money. That will almost always be the "right" one.

        Not to say all MS training is bad. If you get a decent instructor who has experience with other vendors and solutions, who can cut through all the crap and extract the meat of what you actually need to know to succeed in the field, you can actually learn something useful. There's not many instructors like that, though.
      • Re:No myth here (Score:5, Insightful)

        by stinerman (812158) <[nathan.stine] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:00PM (#22703424) Homepage
        I've taken to writing a statement as to why I don't have any certs and including it with my resume. I've had places turn me down for not having an A+ cert, even though I have 8+ years experience in the industry.

        You're right on the other count, too. Throw a bash prompt in front of an MCSE and watch them look at you like your dog does when you tell him a joke.
        • by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:06PM (#22703524) Homepage

          Throw a bash prompt in front of an MCSE and watch them look at you like your dog does when you tell him a joke.

          Maybe your jokes just aren't that funny.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Robber Baron (112304)

          Throw a bash prompt in front of an MCSE...
          So just how DO you get a bash prompt to appear on a Windows box?

          Comments like this are just plain ignorant. A decent sysadmin (and those are few and far between, the above article notwithstanding) doesn't care what OS a box is running. The actual processes of adminning a system or network are pretty much universal. Whether it's done with a GUI or a command like is just one small detail.

        • Re:No myth here (Score:5, Insightful)

          by computational super (740265) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:21PM (#22705120)
          I've taken to writing a statement as to why I don't have any certs and including it with my resume.

          Ok, flame-resistant suit on here, but - what, exactly does that statement say? In other words, why *don't* you have any certs? You say you've been turned down for a job for not having the A+ cert. You and I both know that it's a trivial cert to get, right?

          Either the test is trivially simple for you, so you can pick up a quick "A+ certification for dummies" book, skim it on the train over to the testing site (or even walk in with no preparation at all), pass the cert with flying colors, and be out $100 (if you can't get your current employer to cover the cost of the test, which you usually can) and an hour of your life, and not be turned down for a job again for something so trivial.

          Or - the test is difficult, it takes some preparation and experience to get through - in which case having one actually *does* say something (much to yours and my surprise) about your knowledge, determination, and commitment.

          I was required (strongly asked) to get a couple of Java certifications by my then-employer back in '01. By then I'd been doing Java for a couple of years, so I figured I'd blow through the test with flying colors. Oops - turns out there were quite a few things I didn't know. Turns out that I actually learned some things studying for the test, things that actually turned out to be actually useful.

          Contrary to /., taking a test doesn't make you stupider. Passing it doesn't mean you're smart, but it does mean you're at the very least smarter than somebody who can't even pass the test.

          • by schiefaw (552727) on Monday March 10, 2008 @03:13PM (#22706022)
            Probably the best impact that a certification has on the industry is that it indicates a certain base level of core competence. Unfortunately software development is one area where someone can make something "mostly" work. In any given language you can probably make something that takes the required input and generates the desired output. The key is to make an application that is stable, efficient, and flexible. It is very difficult for non-programmers to know when an application has met those standards, so someone could have been in the industry for 15 years and still be a complete idiot. Their employers may not have realized that the guy needed to be fired.

            For example: I had to rework part of an application that purged files from a Windows directory when an account had been closed for a certain period of time. The application was set to run at night because it could take between three to six hours to run. When I looked at the code, the developer was comparing every account to be purged against every directory in the repository. When he found a match he would delete the directory and continue comparing against the rest of the directories (thousands of directories). So, he had two problems; he wasn't exiting the loop after finding the match and more importantly he didn't realize that he could just attempt to delete the directory without searching since he knew the path. When I reworked the app it would finish in three minutes. The guy who wrote it was the technical lead who had hired me.

            BTW, I have no certifications (other than a BSCS).
          • Re:No myth here (Score:5, Insightful)

            by plopez (54068) on Monday March 10, 2008 @05:51PM (#22708618) Journal
            why *don't* you have any certs?
            because it can cost you huge amounts of money to get one unless your employer actually agrees to pay for it?

            I've looked at certs and paying for them out of my own pocket. But $10k or so for something that will be obsolete in a few years isn't cost effective for me.
      • by jay-za (893059) *

        The real irony here is the most expertise I've seen out of the Microsoft side of things is the guys that can understand Redmond's insane licensing system.

        Well, send them out this way. Or better yet, send them to Microsoft South Africa. One of the big reason's we haven't migrated to MS Exchange yet is because for the last year and a half every time I have to get clarification on licensing issues I get a different response. Once, I got an email where the (really helpful) lady contradicted herself twice in

        • Re:MS Licensing (Score:4, Informative)

          by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:56PM (#22704624) Homepage Journal
          I'm a QA guy at MS and beleive me, I understand your frustration. People like me have no say in how things get licensed. I've got friends that ask me licensing questions for their particular business problem and I've honestly got no idea. All i can do is forward the questions into people internally and hope somebody has a lucid response.

          Every time I do this, i remind "whoever" is listening: every time a customer has to think about this, they move some deltaE closer to saying "fuck you guys" and jumping to F/OSS, where if nothing else, licensing is certainly _perceptually_ less confusing.

          Anytime a business makes it hard for customers to give it money, they're doing something wrong.

          Expecting customers to keep track of licenses (with paper and a filing cabinet, in some cases!) and all kinds of other stuff is completely ridiculous. A big part of the problem is that internally, we're for the most part completely insulated from it. We do ok at responding to pain that we know about and have exposure to, and pretty badly at pain we don't understand or know about.

          I'm sorry for how lame your licensing experience has been and wish I could offer some help. I'm also interested in knowing more about your virtual test lab.. one of my last projects in Redmond was working on the automation system that ran all of Visual Studio's tens of thousands of automated tests across thousands of PCs. The feedback I get is that very few companies are doing automated software testing, so I'm interested in what you're working on.

      • Re:No myth here (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MrNemesis (587188) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:18PM (#22705032) Homepage Journal
        Agree. I'm a self-taught IT professional that still doesn't have a qualification to his name. I got a computer for my 21st birthday and, instead of doing any work on my degree, spent all day tinkering with it - for as long as I've remembered I've not liked using anything unless I knew how it worked, and now that uni was forcing me into using a computer I had to figure it out.

        Cut a long story short and I bollocks up my degreee because I've spent all my time fiddling with computers. Yet somehow I get an IT job and end up writing a crappy PHP-based job management system. I then find myself as a sysadmin for a financial startup. Startup gets bought and I'm transferred across to a Big Fat Sysadmin job and am told at the beginning that I'll have to switch to helpdesk because, frankly, this company doesn't employ people like me and I'm only here because it's illegal to sack me.

        2 months later and my line manager is telling me I know more about how windows works than most of the MCSE's, and more about Linux that the RHCT's and the DBA's put together. Given that the old -> new company migration is still happening, I get my Big Fat Sysadmin role. Almost all the MCSE's are afraid of the command line and call me "Linux boy" yet mysteriously within a week the backups on their 12-node ESX cluster are working reliably again and there's a security policy in place to stop everyone logging in as root (3hrs VM downtime in my first week from people running the wrong command as root).

        Moral of the story? If the circumstances are right, you can get by just fine without any qualifications, and IMHO my job is more interesting because I took the path less trodden and learnt computers from the CPU upwards (still can't figure out Excel to save my life). When you do get qualifications, alot of them are meaningless when compared to actual experience doing things (and most employers are aware of this - if you have experience, make a BIG thing of it) - I've sat through my MCSA, and precious little of that is about what the computer is actually doing (how can you talk about AD without understanding DNS, LDAP and Kerberos? Without that crucial understanding, how can you comprehend at what the data looks like, what paths the data is taking, how it is stored and transmitted, and how a failure at any of these different points will manifest itself?), it's about what buttons to press. Ambiguous questions usually result in "Use and/or buy Microsoft $software" answers being the right ones. Alot of employers are only looking for people who know which $software to buy, and how to use it The Microsoft Way. Others are looking for people to solve problems. MCS* typically help with the former, but (with the right sort of person) help with the latter too.

        Summary fo the moral: interviewers, I hope to god you actually read those CV's and don't just blindly grep for MCSA or MCSE because, if you do, some desperate company going through the dregs of monster.com is going to be pilfering a colossal asset to the company from under your nose.

        Sincerely,
        Hugely obstinate and arrogant sysadmin ;)
    • Re:No myth here (Score:5, Insightful)

      by moderatorrater (1095745) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:40PM (#22703014)
      I can speak of my experience for the western US (but east of california) and say that it can sometimes take months to get a good candidate to apply. There are a lot of mediocre or bad programmers out there, most of them with degrees. I'm very suspicious of the claims in this report; they've looked at graduation rates (worthless, since most of the programmers I work with don't have a degree or have a degree in something other than CS) and they've asked HR about applications and overall satisfaction of the people that were hired. At the large shops I've worked at, there are a lot of mediocre programmers that aren't great, but they're good enough to not get fired. If you're someone like Google and you have stricter standards, I could easily see a shortage of good programmers.

      So, to sum up, I see no shortage of programmers, just a shortage of good programmers.
      • Re:No myth here (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Foofoobar (318279) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:50PM (#22703240)
        LOL. Never trust the candidate with the cert. It's the candidate who who has spent time in the field for 5-10 years working with the same tools that you are looking to use. This person knows the ins and outs, how to integrate them in weird setups, tweaks and patches for odd problems you may encounter, etc. That cert will never be able to tell the candidate how to figure out all the things that experience will be able to give them and experience only comes with spending time in the field and at home tweaking and learning.

        I think this is where the hobbyist has the advantage over the person with the cert.

      • Re:No myth here (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bjourne (1034822) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:55PM (#22704618) Homepage Journal
        Programming is hard. In fact, so hard that merely three or four years at university won't make you more than decent at it. The best programmers are the ones who love doing it, who got their C64 at 10 and then spent years learning about computers in their spare time. Understandably that is the kind of programmers your company wants. Programmers who have learnt so much by themselves that it would amount to 10+ years in university for someone new in the field. Programmers that are really good, that are better than average. Does your company pay them a fair salary in comparision to their education and skill? Or does it pay average salaries for very much above average skilled personell? If it is the latter, then it's no wonder that you have trouble recruiting people. So, to sum up, companies that are to cheap to pay decent salaries or to offer training programs for their mediocre programmers have nothing but themselves to blame.
    • by Nursie (632944) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:40PM (#22703026)
      But who the hell would want to do that for a job? Honestly....

      I found out our testers are payed on a par with or more than software developers the other day. At first I was a little angry, because I get angry whenever anyone is paid more than software developers because "we make your fscking products!".

      Then I thought "What would it take to get me into that job?" and I realised they were welcome to the money.
    • Re:No myth here (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lijemo (740145) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:55PM (#22703340)

      I can't speak for the US, but I can state that in South Africa... The area of the market that DOES have a shortage, however, and a really massive one at that, is the Tester and Test Analyst side. We are struggling to get even halfway decent people.

      Being a really good Tester or Test Analyst requires all of the skill of other IT positions, with (at least in the U.S., in my experience) half of the pay, and none of the respect. Very few of the people capable of being excellent Test Analysts have much motivation to do so.

      (Back when I was in Test Analysis, I had a boss tell me straight up that while my performance was excellent, since Testing was not a "revenue generating" position, he saw no need to pay me anything near what the "revenue-generating" IT positions at the company were paid. I'm no longer at that company, and since then, I've had a strong bias towards making sure I'm in a "revenue generating" position. Things work much better for me this way. And companies wonder why it's hard to find quality Test people...)

      • Wow! The boss you had who said that illustrates exactly why so much software out there is garbage!

        I'd say testing is VERY much a revenue-generating component of a business that sells software! Software inherently contains bugs, because people are not perfect. As my software coding friend used to fondly point out, "If I'm 99% accurate with all the code I write, that means roughly 1 line in every 100 I write needs fixing!"

        Back when most software development efforts were 1 man projects, it was a "given" that
  • Isn't it obvious? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    There is a shortage of *cheap* IT labor...
    • by Grimbleton (1034446) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:10PM (#22702506)
      Bingo. They don't want the guys who want 95-120k a year, they want to guys who'll be happy with 25-35k a year and work 12 hour days.
      • by barzok (26681)
        I had an interview with someone like that once. He basically wanted me to do a job very similar to what I was doing elsewhere at the time, but take a 40% pay cut in the process. I wasted a whole afternoon (and wasted an hour of his day) because I wouldn't tell him what salary I wanted before he told me what the job was.

        We got that part out of the way in the first 10 minutes of the interview because he wouldn't move on till I answered; he spent the next 45 telling me that he wanted someone right out of colle
    • by MrMarket (983874) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:40PM (#22703032) Journal
      MOD PARENT UP.

      This is what we are facing in our organization. About 66% of our openings are technical, but our HR director is clueless -- not only in writing effective job descriptions and requirements, but also when it comes to setting compensation packages that attract good candidates. Our business analysts (which are a dime dozen) make as much or more than our application engineers.

      It's almost a conspiracy: inability to hire good application engineers, limits our ability to automate business analytic processes, and increases the demand for spread sheet jockeys. Good times.

  • I can't stand those ComputerTraining.com ads on the radio that reinforce this myth. Find me one person that has a starting salary of 70k from their program.
  • by techpawn (969834) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:07PM (#22702442) Journal

    there's an ever-present shortage of skilled IT workers to fill the industry's demand
    The key there is SKILLED. Most of the skilled IT people are already at work for a company or for themselves. What you have left in the pool is a bunch of low level first year grads who haven't seen the environments that these companies offer.

    So, yes it's a myth that there are not enough people to fill IT positions, there are lots of code monkeys willing to pound keys for their banana but what are the skilled IT people that these larger companies are looking for out of the box and where will we find them right now?
    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:24PM (#22702764) Journal
      Shrug. We've all been fresh out of school at some point...A lot of the time I'd rather have a recent grad who's willing to learn than a guy with 10 years experience who thinks he doesn't have to learn anymore.

      I seriously get tired of people who expect high-end experts to explode out of the ground whenever they want one. Lot of the time you're going to have to settle for some people who are bright, young, and inexperienced. Mix them up with some more experienced workers, and they'll do okay.

      Lot of people say, "I don't want to train someone, knowing that he's going to leave as soon as he gets a better offer." The English translation of that is: "I did this guy a favor by hiring him, and piling crap work on him, and I can't figure out why he'd be so disloyal." Make your company a good place to work, and you won't have such high turnover.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by openfrog (897716)
      I don't understand your logic. The point of this well documented article is to show that self-interests are at work in those regular shortage claims and that this short-sighted behavior ends up hurting the industry and everyone working in it.

      I actually don't believe that on Slashdot, people don't RTFA, but in any case, here is the conclusion of the article. Pretty strong and pretty damning IMHO.

      In both cases these efforts have flooded the market with lower-cost foreign workers who are supplanting an alr

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by techpawn (969834)

        I don't understand your logic.
        What's to misunderstand? When companies are looking for Mid to High level IT staffing and all they can find in the pool is low level that they'd have to train up or the mid level that doesn't quite work of course they're going to call shortage of skills. Find me a senior level Vax Admin in the midwest and you're going to be SOL but I assure you there are companies there that would use them.
    • by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:35PM (#22702928) Homepage
      where will we find them right now

      There's yer problem, right there, guv.

      The problem is that the IT industry, like many industries, expects to find a pool of skilled and experienced available staff, at the drop of a hat, without the company putting in any effort themselves.

      The solution is apprenticeships - a variant on "I wouldn't start from here", I admit, but the only workable solution nonetheless. Start the recruitment process two years in advance, and train up the monkeys to become experts. Another benefit is that apprenticeships, unlike university degrees, have no fixed syllabus and can quickly flex to meet new skill demand trends.

      The problem with apprenticeships is that various governments have regulations against locking-in staff for long periods. Companies who invest in apprenticeships see their newly-trained staff bugger off to a better-paying competitor, who can afford to pay more since they haven't invested in apprenticeships, the moment they qualify. Governments need to relax regulations on locking-in apprentices to their sponsoring employer. Governments also need to give companies better ability to fire apprentices who fail to meet expected grades on time.

      Cheap, experienced, immediately available - pick any two.
      • by weston (16146) <westonsd@canncen ... g minus caffeine> on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:51PM (#22704516) Homepage
        Governments need to relax regulations on locking-in apprentices to their sponsoring employer.

        There is a market solution that doesn't involve short-term contract slavery: employers could compete to retain their valued and newly-trained staff.

        Some organizations already do this, and succeed in keeping people for a long time. Others seem to never want what they already have: The new guy with the shiny resumé can command more than the solid employee they *know* has reported to work for two years for $10,000 less. So they talk about salary freezes, while they're hiring people for more -- and that's to say nothing of what they're paying the guys in marketing....

        Of course, the market seems to let some of both kinds of organizations survive, so maybe the second type is on to something.
      • by rnturn (11092) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:51PM (#22705666)

        ``The solution is apprenticeships - a variant on "I wouldn't start from here", I admit, but the only workable solution nonetheless. Start the recruitment process two years in advance, and train up the monkeys to become experts.

        That's not too far from what used to be fairly common at a lot of companies, especially those that hired lots of engineers. It wasn't really an apprenticeship but it sort of felt that way in that newly hired engineers would float around between different departments learning different parts of the business for maybe a year before they settled in within a more permanent spot. That seemed to be changing, though, not long after I joined a large midwestern engineering firm. The newer guys were being hired directly into a group and expected to stay there for a long time. I preferred the older way of acclimating new hires. You got a better idea of the rest of the company and the various departments. Nowadays its more of a "hire a hit man" mentality when bringing in new people. It's no wonder they tend to not stick around very long. After they've been hired to fill an immediate niche need, they know the company won't really have any great desire to keep them around.

    • by wtansill (576643) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:40PM (#22703028)

      The key there is SKILLED. Most of the skilled IT people are already at work for a company or for themselves. What you have left in the pool is a bunch of low level first year grads who haven't seen the environments that these companies offer.
      Which is why I walk around with my shorts in a knot most days.

      Where do you get these "skilled" people? It takes years of experience. When companies say that they are "only outsourcing low-level jobs", I call bullshit -- they are, as the farmers say, eating their seed corn. If you don't take in new people and allow them to mature on the "low level" stuff, where the hell does management think that the highly skilled people will come from? You don't normally step out of school with 20 years seniority and experience already under your belt...
  • It's A Fact (Score:5, Informative)

    by CowboyBob500 (580695) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:07PM (#22702446) Homepage
    Over the course of last year I needed to hire 10 experienced J2EE developers. I literally interviewed hundreds, but was only able to find 6 suitable candidates. While it is true that there isn't a shortage of applicants, there is most certainly a shortage of people who can actually perform the advertised job.

    Bob
    • You didn't ask for 5 years experience on a version that's only been out for three did you? Because if you did, the six "suitable candidates" are liars...
    • by ArcherB (796902) *

      Over the course of last year I needed to hire 10 experienced J2EE developers. I literally interviewed hundreds, but was only able to find 6 suitable candidates. While it is true that there isn't a shortage of applicants, there is most certainly a shortage of people who can actually perform the advertised job.

      And I think that is the crux of your problem, or the industry as a whole. Employers have gotten so reluctant to take a chance on someone without 5+ years experience that they would rather do without. In your case, why don't you take the excess budget you have from the four people you DIDN'T hire and use that money to hire 6-8 programmers with less experience, but who are eager to gain it? In two years, you will have 12-14 experienced programmers for the price of 10!

      Take my case for example. I am marrie

    • by hax4bux (209237) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:26PM (#22702802)
      I am a "highly experienced J2EE person" and as a contractor I sit for interviews once a year or so.

      I am not disagreeing w/your experience, simply because I wasn't there.

      My point is most hiring managers don't know how to interview and frequently don't even know what skills are relevant.

      My interviews routinely turn into some sort of geek dick size war (and the candidate must be polite) or a beauty pagent (where did you go to university, my professors are more glamorous than yours) or some other stupid diversion rather than the job at hand.

      My least favorite is: are you kewl enough to work in our clubhouse? It's just a job, I get all the love I want at home.

      It doesn't help that most jobs are using API's they barely understand. So when someone asks me an obscure question about XML bindings or hibernate, they frequently don't recognize the answer.

      Anyway, I'm a little tired of hearing about "the shortage" when in fact there is none. The "shortage" (IMO) is manufactured.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      There could be many other reasons. Some are polite, some are not:

      * Your company work environment could suck and frighten off people.
      * You could be Microsoft or SCO, with a history of intellectual property deceit, and no one competent wants to work there.
      * Your pay scale could be too low.
      * Your location could be too far away from where such technical personnel like to live: this makes recruitying very hard.
      * Your advertisement could have been poorly written.
      * Your recruiters could have been one of those off-
  • SHORTAGE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by COMON$ (806135) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:08PM (#22702452) Journal
    skilled IT

    And I will second that, I am sure in other parts of the country, skilled IT are a dime a dozen. But where I am at (Midwest) actual skilled IT people are hard to find. Sure you can find the guy/girl who was promoted to IT from accounting back in the 90s but that doesn't make them a skilled pro. Show me a cross reference of IT folks who actually know what they are doing, have a passion for it, and I bet that subset is really small. I have no need for joe basement dweller who runs his guild website and knows how to install a video card. I also dont have any need for dilbert principle folks who are in waaaay over their heads and cannot configure a server without serious handholding or an in depth checklist.

  • by TheLink (130905)
    Yeah and wonder why they keep asking for more women to join the IT field etc, even though it is _obvious_ that most women just aren't as interested in the IT fields as they are in other fields.

    More supply = lower cost to these rich companies.
  • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:16PM (#22702606)

    "This whole concept of shortages is bogus, it shows a lack of understanding of the labor pool in the USA."
    Yes, the lack of understanding that resident U.S. IT workers wish to make a living wage.

    The IT labor "shortage" is a profit issue.

  • There are two very obvious sides to this argument:

    1. We want more supply of labor to bring the price down.
    2. We want less supply of labor to bring the price up.

    Both positions are entirely self-serving. There's no surprise.

    FWIW: Our company is looking for someone to be a Unix/Linux sysadmin in the Sacramento area. We pay well. We can't find anyone.

  • by Black Art (3335) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:17PM (#22702632)
    When they talk about an "IT labor shortage", they are talking about how many people are willing to work for low wages and yet have a large pool of skills, talent and education.

    There are plenty of people who have the skill sets they need, they just don't want to pay the kind of wages it takes to get them and keep them.

    I am not talking about kids just out of college expecting a high paying job. I am talking about companies that want people with 10+ years worth of experience and want to pay them like a kid out of college.

    It has been true for a very long time that the only way you can get a real pay increase in IT it to move somewhere else. Until companies start looking at their employees as a resource and not an expense and pay them accordingly, the situation will not improve.

    All these cries to let them import labor is to allow them to rent temporary employees who can be deported at the first sign of "getting uppity" for demanding a living wage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
      Meh. IT is still a "non-revenue generating department" for the vast majority of businesses. That means their budgets suck hind teat; but worse, the bulk of the budget goes to things like hardware and software, so you're left with the dregs to supply salary money for your workers.

      If they don't take it seriously, they can't expect to attract top talent.
  • What Bill Gates and others want is a glut of workers in the market, this makes it more competitive and means wages are lower.
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:21PM (#22702714)
    We use some H1B's (and try to get them green cards).

    We pay a "decent" salary-- my buds at HP earn roughly 10% more-- those in the oil field earn about 20% more (but have a history of frequent layoffs). We have solid benefits that exceed those of the oil field and HP.

    The reality is- we are about to lose positions because we cannot even get under-qualified people to apply for them. Now part of it is that we require people with at least a couple other jobs experience under their belt. Part of it is that being a big corp, our bureaucracy is pretty harsh. I have a friend who was sucked into Schluberje (sp) recently and there you literally have to take a driving class (as a frikkin programmer???) as part of your job duties. Bureaucracy gone mad. I'm sure many of you have seen office space--- we are 3x office space. It really takes a special person to fit in a large corporation. Jobs that would take 2 hours at a small company (and be very satisfying) may take three months. I even know of one project that was finished a year ago and it is still stuck waiting to be prioritized for release.

    Sarbanes Oxley takes all the joy out of being a programmer. It just sucks the life out of it. Coders like to code 32 hours a week-- not 32 hours per quarter. You can't even maintain your coding skills at those levels.

    I think the IT Worker crunch IS coming- and it is going to be wicked nasty starting in about 2012.

    • First, Sarbox does suck, having auditors question ever code push is a tremendous waste of time and resources. Sarbox needs to be repealed. IT did not cause Enron to fail, the accountants did. Second, working for large corps is trying, and the majority of the problem is that architects don't have enough authority / responsibility to just get the job done. There shouldn't be 6 different review boards for every code push. On that note, I don't think there's a worker shortage. Please disclose the "decent" salar
  • by Tsar (536185) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:23PM (#22702740) Homepage Journal
    ...if /. were only available at night?
  • it shows a lack of understanding of the labor pool in the USA This does not show a lack of understanding. It shows that they are like all those employing illegal aliens; well aware of what the pool is doing.
  • Why not pay more? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bamwham (1211702)
    and let the job market correct itself? We have these same issues in my field. If people were payed what they are worth we wouldn't have to import workers. I see these claims of shortages of workers in any field as simply industry's (quite successful) attempts to suppress wages for a long time to come, rather than be forced to pay the wage that the current supply-demand for that skill set dictates. Once society sees the adjusted pay grades, incoming students will adjust the supply accordingly. You don't
  • They responded by dropping computer science enrollments to a ten year low in 2007 - half of the 2000 peak. They know you must love computers and not the money. And that may not even be enough to keep a job in the US.
  • Completely disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pavera (320634) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:26PM (#22702796) Homepage Journal
    Sure there may not be a shortage of IT resumes on monster... But there sure is a shortage of people who can back up their resumes with actual demonstrated work/skill.

    We are offering market wage, and we are hiring entry level people, maybe 1 in 30 of the people we interview actually demonstrates the minimum of critical thinking and problem solving skills needed to be a decent software developer. Our interviews are not concentrated on any one platform, we have stuff in foxpro, java, python, php, c++ and c#... So our interviews are focused on critical thinking and problem solving. We have a couple basic problem solving questions and 2 algorithm questions which we routinely ask.. This is stuff I learned in high school, or my 2nd year algorithms class in college. People who are professing CS degrees and 0-5 years experience are routinely getting these questions wrong.

    Even the few people we have hired over the last 3-6 months have been disappointing in their ability to a) learn new languages, b) learn and follow best practices, c) demonstrate real troubleshooting/bug fixing skills. C is probably my biggest pet peeve, as a manager I don't know how many times in the last 6 months I've had to go to a programmers system when they say "I'm getting this error and I don't know what it means" and the error message very clearly lays out the problem, the line it is occurring on, etc...

    Either CS degrees are seriously lacking in rigor since I participated ~ 8 years ago, or they are just rubber stamping people that shouldn't be passing the classes.
    • by LuisAnaya (865769) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:57PM (#22703370)
      Also...

      C is not longer an important language to learn in College. If you want to get a good C programmer, you're looking for somebody of the ages of 38 to 52 years of age. If you're stuck keeping up with legacy systems, that's what you're going to find out.

      Now programmers learn Java in fancy IDE's. Never having to learn a pointer or a pointer re-direction. Make sure that you're not maintaining PL/1, COBOL or Assembly... if you have someone decent maintaining that code, make sure that he/she is happy.

      You have to keep in mind that a lot of those folks come out of 2 year colleges or with the liberalism in today's universities, many of them spent their time taking macrame or latin literature as part of their CS degree.

      My 2 cents...

    • by hemp (36945) on Monday March 10, 2008 @02:01PM (#22704734) Homepage Journal
      Our interviews are not concentrated on any one platform, we have stuff in foxpro, java, python, php, c++ and c#... Foxpro?? Umm...that may be your problem right there...You want stellar candidates to work on a 28 year old technology? Damn, that does sound exciting? Will I get to work on DOS 2.0 too?
  • I work for a information-based organization in Washington State. We offer excellent pay and sweet-arse benefits IMO. But there are just not enough qualified applicants for the IT positions we have open. We will get lots of resumes, but they seem to fall into one of two categories:
    -I have an MCSE and 6 month actual work experience
    -I have a doctorate in computer science but can't manage a network at all (seriously, we had one guy who could not define what DNS was)
  • I think the key word has always been talented. As in a shortage of talented IT people.
  • by jskline (301574) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:29PM (#22702852) Homepage
    I had not read through all of these today but having survived 5+ years now of business only hiring temps and "independent contractors", I have a fair amount of knowledge in the area. Because of this "outsourcing" that many of us went through, our jobs were cut by moves in business to cut IT costs and improve profits for the shareholders, et al. This really is nothing more than devaluating the duties and tasks that we do to that of a high schooler working at a local Mickey-D's.

    The real "shortage" comes about because business is NOT able to find someone willing to come in and be an all-purpose IT person, network guru, server admin., etc. and accept pay to the tune of $11 per hour. Thats the real shortage issue. So they will further outsource the jobs and bring in foreigners on H1B's to do those jobs at substantially reduced rates. IBM and a handful of other international companies are notorious for this.

    Really what it will come down to is let these large companies hire the kids for $11. You really do get what you paid for. Eventually when things begin to collapse for many of these companies, they will be force to bring in people with knowledge and experience, and best of all; pay them what they're worth.

    Remember that: "What goes around; comes around"
  • by joeflies (529536) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:32PM (#22702882)
    I think that there is a bit of a distorted perception that there is always a shortage of IT labor, because no matter where you work, no matter how many people are in your staff, you'll believe that your department is understaffed and overworked. Have you ever heard an IT staff say "we have just the right amount of people for just the right amount of work?"
  • "This whole concept of shortages is bogus, it shows a lack of understanding of the motivations of labor management in the USA."

    There, fixed that for ya.

    Even the original writeup used the term "self-serving." It's not a misunderstanding of who is available, it's a direct consequence of the idea that, even with air travel expenses and shepherding, getting some third-world contractor to do the coding will save money. Whether this idea is actually defensible on cost-vs-quality terms is debatable, but the idea remains important, in management's view.

    Think in four quadrants. The quadrant representing status-quo is high-cost/high

  • by Panaqqa (927615) * on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:34PM (#22702916) Homepage
    Many times in a 30 year IT career, I have seen Human Resources people who are clueless about technology writing ads that have qualifications that nobody could meet. Examples: 5 months after the introduction of the JDK 1.0, there were ads asking for 3-5 years of Java experience. There are ads currently out there asking for 3-5 years of ActionScript 3 (introduced I think June of 2006). Requiring a bachelors degree for an entry level help desk position doesn't add up to a healthy pool of qualified applicants either.

    Job ads often have a huge list of "requirements" as well, and an applicant missing even one of them might well be screened out. An example of this? Seasoned web developers might not bother listing FTP on their resume. In their view, requiring a web developer to have FTP experience is like requiring a carpenter to know how to use a saw. But that failure to list FTP on the resume might well mean the application is automatically trashed. I have seen HR screen out applicants for a web developer position because they neglected to list HTTP, DHTML, and Photoshop on their resume. And don't get me started about HR's lack of understanding of the difference between a web developer and a web designer.

    If HR departments are the source of some of the statistical and anecdotal evidence being trotted forth in support of the existence of this "shortage", I am not surprised the picture looks grim.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mikael (484)
      Back the early 1990's, the recruitment agencies and employers were looking for people with 5 to 10 years experience of Windows 3.0/3.1.

      And during the start of this decade (2001-2002), just when the dom-com bubble burst, employers were sending out the same job vacancy to every possible recruiter they could find, thus creating a mirage of job vacancies, each of which would be described slightly differently, but the location was identical. The most deceitful was the advert where the agency would advertise "We
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AutopsyReport (856852)
      Similarly, I once applied for a contract requiring experience with "RDBMS's". No sweat. On my resume I had listed Oracle, PostgreSQL, MySQL, etc., as databases I have working knowledge/experience with.

      I received a response from the agency rep stating that they were concerned because I did not have any experience with an RDBMS. These are people who staff IT positions everyday.

      It's these kind of clueless workers who, unfortunately, are usually in the position of determining which applicants are qualifie
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Part of the requirements game is intentional. Employers need to demonstrate that they -tried- to find US workers to fill a position before they can apply to hire an H1B. Trick is, when they hire the H1Bs, they don't have to demonstrate that the foreign workers actually meet the requirements and standards they held domestic applicants to.

      So HR departments have become very shrewd in phrasing positions to ensure no-one could possibly meet the requirements, so that they can hire a foreign worker for peanuts.

      A
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:42PM (#22703072) Homepage
    Scott Kirwin, founder of the Information Technology Professionals Association of America, put it best:

    "The problem is not a lack of highly educated workers. The problem is a lack of highly educated workers willing to work for the minimum wage or lower in the U.S. Costs are driving outsourcing, not the quality of American schools."

    http://www.fispace.org/home/2004/01/_when_i_woke_up.html [fispace.org]

  • by Fred Ferrigno (122319) on Monday March 10, 2008 @12:48PM (#22703200)
    Pick any two.
  • by BlueZombie (913382) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:41PM (#22704282)
    Off the cuff estimate, roughly 90% of the best and brightest IT minds I personally know and including myself, the ones that git-er-done, have given up on long days, fixed pay, lousy conditions, incompetent management, threat of outsourcing, and mental cruelty. A lot of your "skilled" people bail out. We're smart, so we take jobs in lower paying, but more secure and laid back not-for-profits, or find a new second career. We've been in the industry for 10-20 years and want to do things like have families, and see our friends once in a while. I was personally told repeatedly by my management that they could hire 2 college grads or 4 foreign workers for the price of me and if I didn't like 80hr weeks I was welcome to leave. So I did.
  • by hey! (33014) on Monday March 10, 2008 @01:48PM (#22704462) Homepage Journal
    of the best people.

    When you bring lots of good people into an area, you don't take jobs away from the less skillful, you create new jobs.

    The problem with the H1B program is that it is structured, not just to bring in already abundant entry level labor, but to prime offshoring efforts by kicking that labor out of the country once it's obtained enough experience to be really useful. At the very least, we should not have a guest worker program for highly skilled workers, but one that clears the way for permanent residency and citizenship.

    Even better, we should scrap the whole thing and fund a massive postgraduate fellowship program in a variety of technology areas, each fellowship accompanied with a handsome stipend and an invitation at the end to become a permanent resident. Of course, some knuckleheads would say it's unfair to tax Americans to pay for fellowships they can't apply for, which completely misses the point. I'm not talking about people of the caliber that are going to have trouble finding a job. I'm talking about people whose presence will create wealth and jobs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by curmudgeon99 (1040054)
      I sense a subtle bias towards offshore resources, sir. Having worked for many years with exactly those type of resources, I question your assumption that better resources are to be had off shore. In my experience, there is no substitute for the type of domestic, American creativity that comes from having grown up in the United States. So, I will take an American developer 1000 times over a single South Asian one. Over my career, I have seen a consistent lack of creativity, initiative and innovation in th

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