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4 Posts tagged with the employment tag

In my last blog I outlined three alternatives to extending the U.S. H1-B visas for high-tech workers. These included: boosting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; changing perceptions about IT careers, and retraining current workers.


As a good indication of supply and demand gaps, at the RSA Conference in February, the Department of Homeland Security (DOHS) Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity, Mark Weatherford, emphasized the need to develop more cybersecurity talent in the United States. Good IT security professionals are in high demand, he told attendees.


Weatherford also said DOHS hopes to address the skills gap in the security industry by attracting young people. He urged those in attendance to invest in after-school programs focused on hacking and computer programming. "The government needs to figure out how to make security a little cooler so people gravitate to it," he said. (Read about Mark’s actions while he was CISO of the State of California, here.)


Clearly, messages are mixed about choosing an IT career today. InformationWeek’s recent Salary Survey results conclude, for example, that while “application development is widely viewed as a desirable profession ... many developers no longer view the field in a favorable light. As the U.S. economy continues its slow recovery, developers have seen further erosion in benefits, company-paid training, annual compensation ­increases and job security.” (Read more and download the IWK survey here.)


Stemming the STEM Drain, Attracting Young People

Insufficient STEM education is partly to blame for the shortage of qualified IT workers — and it’s a problem in other countries, as well.

A new report from the Australian Industry (Ai) group has found a shortage of key STEM skills among the current and emerging workforce that, it says "is holding back Australian employers in their quest to be more innovative, productive and competitive." The report, "Lifting our Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills," surveyed more than 500 businesses from across the economy.


And Colin Bannister of CA Technologies, recently wrote on Smart Enterprise Exchange about difficulties in attracting young people to tech careers in the U.K. despite the high unemployment. He writes:

The root cause of this problem is the so-called skills shortage, especially in the IT industry. The number of students taking Computer Studies at A-Level continues to fall, for example, and a recent report revealed that some 16 million people in the U.K. lack basic online skills.


It shouldn't be this way. Computer Studies is one of the most innovative and exciting spaces to work in. The British technology sector is also vital to the U.K. economy, contributing £140 billion annually (equivalent to 12 percent of GDP). In essence, bright young students who turn a blind eye to the industry should look again.

Colin goes on to cite several examples, such as the eSkills organization, that are “working tirelessly to make sure Britain is getting the technology skills it needs to succeed, as well as encouraging more women to pursue careers in IT.”  

Legislation Falls Short


Back in the U.S., senators leading the immigration reform efforts and promoting an expansion of H1-B visas “had the right idea in supporting efforts to increase STEM education in the United States as part of the immigration reform package,” writes The Hill blog.

“But it’s hard to imagine that raising the cap on H-1B visas that allow companies to employ foreigners in U.S. STEM-based jobs will lead to any meaningful improvement in STEM education for U.S. students or in American workers’ ability to compete for these jobs in the future.”


“Disappointingly, both the money devoted to U.S. STEM education under these provisions, and the policies attached to them, amount to little more than lip-service to solve the problem of long-term education reform and economic competitiveness,” the blog concludes.


These are surely difficult economic times, and digital automation trends are accelerating at alarming rates. Today’s jobs of all types may be replaced by robots, and corporate data centers continue be displaced by the cloud and BYOD trends. That’s why, at this important time, politicians, educators and business leaders must consider all options for investing in the future and creating as many meaningful, well-paid local IT jobs as possible.


What are your thoughts? Are you currently looking for an IT job? Share your experiences and solutions with your peers.


Alternatives to H1-B Visas: Part 2


Paula Klein

Editor and Community Manager

Smart Enterprise Exchange



When it comes to supply, demand and the U.S. IT job market, I’ve been puzzled for many years. Cyclical booms, as well as busts, often stem as much from actions taken by the industry itself as from macroeconomics. When U.S. firms began seeking programming talent from overseas and sending work offshore, for example, it was a sign of the economic times, but it was also specific to the technology sector.


The debate over H-1B temporary visas — and their global implications — is again heating up as part of the sweeping legislation proposed to address U.S. immigration reform.


According to a recent editorial in The New York Times, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators wants “to expand the popular H-1B category of work visas to 135,000, from 85,000 — a quota that is often reached in a matter of weeks or months every year. The new, higher limit would be allowed to increase or decrease by as many as 10,000 visas a year based on demand for them and government unemployment data.”


The visas, granted to foreign workers when jobs can’t be filled domestically, are helpful to the global employment market but are contentious at a time when Americans are clamoring for well-paid employment.


Salaries Stay Strong

As reported recently in the Dallas News, “while many Americans saw their paychecks stagnate or shrink over the last five years, salaries for skilled technology workers rose, on average, 15 percent across the nation,” according to the online tech career site, Dice Inc. The average salary for a tech professional such as a software systems engineer, mobile app designer or information security engineer was $85,619 at the end of 2012, according to the news report.


Yet high-tech firms, especially in Silicon Valley, are lobbying to raise the quotas and import workers, as described in this news article. I fully understand that the workforce and talent pools are global today, but shouldn’t investment in the domestic workforce be the first alternative to increasing H-1B visas? Specifically, I see three basic ways to get started:


  • Improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and funding at all levels.
  • Change perceptions about IT careers among students and younger workers.
  • Retrain and re-skill current workers for new technologies and offer commensurate salaries and benefits.


These are not quick-fix solutions.However, many long-time IT workers would happily be retrained to fill the open positions -- even if it requires some coaching as well as new skills. Additionally, a new crop of next-generation professionals is about to graduate from college. Most of them are eager not only to pay back student loans, but to start on high-tech career paths. Both groups of workers may be our next data scientists, application developers and chief digital officers.


The Dallas News column goes on to quote Judy Pennington, Director of Human Capital at Deloitte Consulting, as saying: "The way to engage technology folks is to give them something interesting to do, support to do it, IT training if they need it and a coach to help them learn new things." I couldn’t agree more.


In my next blog I will discuss ways to stem the STEM problem and also how the current U.S. legislation falls short. Meanwhile, do you believe H-1B visas are a boost to the IT industry? What is the IT job outlook at your enterprise? 



Paula Klein

Editor and Community Manager

Smart Enterprise Exchange




One question we are frequently asked by the media is: What is happening to data center jobs? As the reasoning goes, cloud computing, automation, outsourcing, data center consolidation and virtualization are conspiring to render data center occupations extinct. The actual data, however, tells a more complex story.


When viewed as a percentage of total IT staff, data center staffing levels appear to have leveled out, following a decade-long decline, and may even be on the rise again. The reason for this is not entirely clear. It may be that we are at the beginning of a very different trend: the build-out of data centers to accommodate even greater computing workloads. Or, it may be that recession-driven cost-cutting has caused a temporary disruption in the longer-term trends.


At Computer Economics, our annual “IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks”  study shows that data center functions survived the global recession just fine. And during the past few years, “just fine” is about as positive as it gets. System administrators, programmers and engineers, as a group, were at the front of the line when it came to job protection. Staffing levels among this group rose from 8.5 percent of the typical IT staff in 2008, to a healthy 10.2 percent this year. Some of this rise is attributable to a decline in overall IT staffing levels. A reduction in the programmers or network personnel in an organization, for instance, would cause data center personnel to look bigger as a percentage of total staff. But that is not the total explanation.


It may be too early to see the full impact of current data center technology shifts on IT employment. During the global business recession, the outsourcing of data center work seemed to suffer a setback as organizations hunkered down, took fewer risks and focused on eliminating all but the most necessary functions, including the very managers needed to reengineer IT processes. Now that IT spending is recovering, organizations may begin in earnest to shed data centers in favor of cloud-based resources. Today’s IT organizations are certainly investing in virtualization of all kinds, and use of Software as a Service (SaaS) is rising briskly.


Change is slow, however, and many of these same trends contribute to improved data center productivity — fewer data center workers are managing more servers, terabytes of storage, and applications. That only enables enterprises to absorb more computing resources. It’s called the law of supply and demand. As the cost of operating data centers declines, organizations can afford to invest in more data center capacity. It is little wonder, then, that system support personnel make up a rising portion of the IT staff today. IT organizations need people who know how to build and support the flexible infrastructure that can embrace the cloud while maintaining critical resources in-house.


We could, in fact, be entering a new golden age of data center employment where productivity gains will be present endless new opportunities for those with the right skills to manage and build virtual, flexible infrastructure and cloud-based resources.


For the time being, the future remains cloudy, but promising for data center employment.



John Longwell is VP of Research at Computer Economics , an Irvine, Calif.-based IT research firm, founded in 1979, that provides metrics for IT management. He is a member  of Smart Enterprise Exchange and can be reached on the site.




For additional Smart Enterprise Exchange content on workforce and employment trends see the Professional Development  track and the following:


Global Workforce Update



Creative IT Hiring Strategies for Net Gen Workers

Women in IT: 12 Tips for Advancement


While U.S. government agencies struggle to compete with private industry for new IT talent, the recruitment situation and its remedies vary greatly around the world. Here is a roundup of a few recent reports tracking global employment trends:


  • Traditional forms of compensation are not the only way to attract and retain employees, according to the Kelly Global Workforce Index released in August. Private employers are also looking for other means to motivate workers. For instance, Gen Y (aged 18-29), as well as Gen X (aged 30-47) are much more likely to be on some form of performance-based pay than those in the Baby Boomer generation (aged 48-65), according to the report. Among those not already on performance-based pay, Gen Y workers —also known by some as the Net Generation or Millennials-- are the most attracted to it.


Additionally, greater ownership in private business can motivate employees to perform at a higher level, with 60 percent of the Kelly survey respondents saying profit-sharing would be a big incentive. Kelly surveyed approximately 134,000 people in 29 countries across North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.


The idea of giving employees a “slice of the pie” is gaining in appeal. Almost 40 percent of respondents say that some of their compensation is tied to individual, group or company performance targets. Of those who do not have such an arrangement, more than a third would like to see this practice adopted by their employers.
Geographically, 65 percent of those in the Asia-Pacific region say that profit sharing would motivate them to “perform more productively” — that’s higher than in North America and Europe. Aside from salary, the benefit that rates as most important to Asian employees is training, followed by flexible hours, health benefits, time off and retirement benefits.


In Europe, 78 percent say employers should take some responsibility for employee health and well-being, compared to 82 percent in Asia-Pacific.


  • At the high end of the market, hiring seems to be picking up slightly. Another recent survey, conducted by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) shows that executive-level recruitment this year is rising more than it has in the past 15 months. North America seems to be emerging from the recession “first and strongest,” according to the report, followed by Asia-Pacific and other emerging markets. Europe is lagging, with flat results from quarter one to quarter two this year.


  • Yet when viewed through another lens, the global labor market is worsening. In describing its newest report, the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO), says that the world economic crisis has spurred a record increase in youth unemployment.

    “Global youth unemployment has reached its highest level on record, and is expected to increase through 2010,” the ILO said in the report, ILO Global Employment Trends for Youth 2010. The study was issued to coincide with the launch of the U.N. International Youth Year August 12.

    ILO says that “of some 620 million economically active youth aged 15 to 24 years, 81 million were unemployed at the end of 2009 — the highest number ever. This is 7.8 million more than the global number in 2007. The youth unemployment rate increased from 11.9 percent in 2007 to 13.0 percent in 2009.”


In most regions, young women continued to be the hardest hit by unemployment. Only in what the ILO calls “developed economies” and the European Union were young males harder hit. In particular, unemployed youths in the U.K. and Spain seem to be giving up their employment search in the greatest numbers.

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