IT Workforce Declines as Demand Grows

Geeks in Short Supply

The IT workforce fell by 5% during the last year according to the latest findings of the Information Technology Association of America (www.itaa.org). In its new report, "Bouncing Back: Jobs, Skills and the Continuing Demand for IT Workers," the ITAA reports the IT workforce dropped from 10.4 million to 9.9 million. While companies hired 2.1 million IT workers, they also dismissed 2.6 million of them during the period.

A fascinating collection of facts and figures, the ITAA report is based on telephone interviews with 532 hiring managers selected at random. Among their conclusions: IT companies were more likely to hand out pink slips last year, Some 15% of IT workers lost their jobs at IT firms; non-IT companies (which employ 92% of all IT workers) shed only 4% of its IT staff. If you work in the South, things were even worse. Though Southern companies have the largest number (over 3.4 million) of IT employees, they also reduced their staff by the highest percentage -- an average of 34%. Most likely to be dismissed: technical support workers.

Despite the layoffs, the study concludes companies are optimistic about hiring in the next 12 months. Companies expect to have over 1.1 million openings (27% higher than last year) but expect nearly 579,000 of them will go unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers. Job growth is decidedly regional, however. Demand is down in the Midwest (a 68% drop since 2000) and the West (71%). To cope with worker shortages, 17% of respondents say they'll increase outsourcing.

The most important credential on an applicant's resume? Just as last year, hiring managers are looking for job experience, though certification has also grown in importance for every IT job category. New to this report this year is an examination of about 30,000 technical jobs on the Dice online job board. The skills most in demand: C++, Oracle, SQL, Java, and Windows NT.

Companies report that two years has become an average acceptable time to retain IT workers, and 84% of them do so. Database developers and administrators are expected to stay for an average of ten months, while the tenure of programmers and technical writers is closer to 33 months. Non-IT companies have reduced their expectations as well, expecting employees to stay in their jobs for two years, down from three years in ITAA's 2001 survey. They're even more pessimistic about database talent, expecting turnover in just eight months.

What keeps a worker? According to the study, hiring managers say money is at the top of the list.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the former editorial director of Enterprise Strategies (esj.com).

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