IT Workers Shortage: Implications for Education Policy
Wilson, Clay, Policy Studies Review
The US Department of Commerce Office of Technology Policy (OTP) has reported an increasing gap between business demand for and growth in the supply of Information Technology (IT) workers. Between 1996 and 2006, according to OTP job growth projections using figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), US industries will require approximately 137,800 IT workers per year (Office of Technology Policy, 1997). However, the OTP states that indicators such as salary escalation and a decline in the number of IT graduates show that the supply of IT workers may be falling short. The OTP report forecasts that as demand continues to grow the shortage of IT workers will increase.
A shortage of IT workers could slow the development of innovative products and services, and eventually reduce the ability of US industry to compete in the global economy. Possible effects can be seen as individual companies increasingly form partnerships with academia to influence university course content so that graduates learn the necessary IT and business skills required by industry (Bachler, 1998; Kinnaman, 1992; Reynolds, 1999). Other possible effects include the extreme difficulties reported by universities when trying to hire and retain instructors to teach courses in newer, high demand IT skills (Burnham, 1999; Jajodia, 1999).
Several organizations disagree about the existence or extent of an IT worker shortage. The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), in reporting the results of a recent study done by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, states that a high percentage of IT jobs are currently vacant, and that the IT industry finds it difficult to fill positions and retain IT personnel. The ITAA states that these findings, combined with recent reports issued by the US Department of Commerce, are evidence that a shortage exists for IT workers (Information Technology Association of America, 1998).
However, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) reports that the current pool of IT workers is adequate to fill existing vacancies, and that what is really needed is training to improve the skills of those workers (Matloff, 1998). Both sides draw opposite conclusions about whether a shortage really exists, by using BLS estimates of future demand for IT workers and BLS figures for recent yearly growth in salary for IT workers.
If a shortage does exist for the IT industry, several solutions have been proposed. One short-term proposal has favored the increased use of immigrant IT workers (Fink, 1999). This, however, has caused the IEEE to accuse the IT industry lobby of advocating changes in immigration laws for the real purpose of keeping IT salaries low (Matloff, 1998). Another proposed solution has favored making better use of the existing older IT work force, through new emphasis for on-the-job training to replace obsolete IT skills with the newer skills demanded by industry (Garner & Weldon, 1998).
Any long-term solution, however, must take into account the existing IT workforce, which implies that the US should make changes in the strategy for educating its IT workforce. These changes would require universities to reevaluate their delivery methods for IT education, and reexamine how well their curricula meets the changing requirements of business. Since newly acquired IT skills are quickly made obsolete through rapid changes in technology, universities must consider future methods for instruction that will allow students to easily keep up with continuous IT change. A long-term solution to the IT shortage must meet the educational needs of the current IT workforce as well as that of newer IT graduates. A long-term solution must also take into account the changing IT requirements of businesses as they compete to develop newer innovative products and services. In summary, future university IT programs should be designed …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: IT Workers Shortage: Implications for Education Policy. Contributors: Wilson, Clay - Author. Journal title: Policy Studies Review. Volume: 18. Issue: 3 Publication date: Autumn 2001. Page number: 167+. © 2000 Policy Studies Organization. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.