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IT Labor shortage?

I originally wrote this as commentary to an article from last year, regarding the so called IT labor shortage. I transcribe the article in its entirety for discussion here.,1895,2111347,00.asp

I agree with a comment made in one of the talkback posts, there is no IT labor shortage (well not yet a real one is anticipated in the next few years), only a shortage of cheap IT labor. However there is a dual statement that can be made that I feel is also necessarily true, namely that US IT workers will need to differentiate their knowledge above and beyond the "cookie cutter" knowledge that is provided to recently graduated IT workers to improve their value relative to the foreign workers and command higher salaries while receiving first dibs on the available jobs. This additional knowledge provides value above what is otherwise comparable knowledge coming from the same cookie cutter IT workers graduating from the best Chinese and Indian universities.

Of course this really shouldn't be a surprise, globalization opens the field to more people with similar skills and by economic necessity that is going to reduce prices (in this case, the price that businesses will be willing to pay for the workers with these fixed skills) only the stand outs with the additional value added skills mentioned before continue to command the higher salaries. I think this is where the US universities are failing us, not in failure to graduate the numbers of IT workers required as indicated by this study, but instead they are failing to provide the diversity of value added knowledge and practical experience necessary to give the Microsoft's of the country a real reason to pay more for an American engineer when they can hire a Chinese or Indian who is just as knowledgeable but is willing to work for 20% less than the American and maybe work 10% longer while doing it.

US institutions I fear are inadequate at combining the book knowledge with the practical hands on, real world needs of business. Where often times it is (unfortunately for the business) more important that something just works than that it works as efficiently as possible, we certainly can attest to this pattern in our worker bee experiences. In this age of deep business tie in's into IT, large scale distributed web applications and emerging service oriented architectures however, the areas and levels of IT competence required by business of each individual employee (not just IT employees as well) have dramatically gone up, yet the Universities aren't training Americans to master these different areas. (at least not as undergrads) For example, do any of you guys know of a university that has a "computers 101" mandatory course for all majors? Similar to what is required for basic writing and math? I think it is long past time that all colleges start making it mandatory for people (not just prospective IT grads) to have certain basic pc skills. We all have experienced the state of utter shock it is to see some one in front of a pc and not know what the "desktop" is.

In my personal experience I can say that when I was a "worker bee" I always made sure to continually acquire skills beyond my employees need in order to stand out, that tactic allowed me to demand compensation commensurate to my talent and receive it every time I asked. I noticed though that many of my peers (excluding present company of course) either did not keep their knowledge levels above the requirements of their positions or they were not confident in asserting their value added skills to command skill commensurate compensation from their employers. I've always believed that you should demand payment for what you KNOW not for what you DO, if your employee isn't fully milking your formidable skills tank that is THEIR fault. If they aren't paying you for your additional skills, even if they don't use them, that is YOUR fault. In the environment of global competition it is going to be even more difficult for Americans who lack in both areas mentioned above to rank competitively with the foreign talent coming in.


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