Career Watch

Since the beginning of time (or so it would seem), IT executives have identified business alignment as their top concern in IT management surveys. And while alignment once again garnered top billing in the Society for Information Management’s recently released 2006 study, concerns about attracting, developing and retaining IT professionals were cited as the second-biggest cause of worry among the 140 IT leaders who participated in the annual survey.

Jerry Luftman


Title: Vice president for academic community affairs

Organization: Society for Information Management, Chicago

Computerworld’s Thomas Hoffman spoke with Jerry Luftman, the author of the SIM study, who is also executive director of graduate information systems programs at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

Some people argue that there is no shortage of skilled IT professionals and that the market is flooded with them. Does that map with what you’re seeing? I have not seen any signs that the market is flooded. Just the opposite. People are saying there aren’t enough qualified entry-level and experienced people. I think that [a flooded market] was true at the beginning of the decade, when companies were downsizing and not hiring as much. But I think we’re past that. And because of the negative images stirred up about the industry at the beginning of the decade, there are fewer people entering the market, and this is going to be a [labor shortage] problem in a few years. There’ll be more of a shortfall, and companies will be forced to go overseas [for contract workers]. All the buzz about offshore outsourcing is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Functional area knowledge, such as in marketing or finance, is among the top 10 skills survey respondents said they were seeking in entry-level hires. Are most computer science students obtaining this kind of experience? One of my concerns from an entry-level perspective is that the kids don’t get that at most universities.

What about internships? Internships help, absolutely. To me, that’s fundamental to a successful program.

The survey found that the average tenure for CIOs is 3.6 years. Any idea how this compares with previous studies? It seems like their tenure has lengthened in recent years. This year, 54% of the CIOs were in their jobs three years or less. Last year, it was 47%. In the past, the average tenure was 18 months. Over the years, I’ve seen a steady increase, where it’s been closer to four years.

What’s behind this? I think — I hope — that CIOs are learning how to be more like business executives as opposed to being a technical manager of geeks in the basement.

Hiring Is Up ...
... but held back by a dearth of talent, says AEA

The U.S. technology industry added more than 140,000 jobs between January and July, nearly double the 78,900 tech jobs added in the first half of 2005, according to a study released in September by the Washington-based American Electronics Association (AEA), a nationwide nonprofit trade group that represents all segments of the technology industry.

> “We’re seeing the largest six-month gain in tech industry jobs that we’ve seen in any six-month period since 2001,” said Josh James, one of the authors of the report.

Technology manufacturers saw a net increase in jobs of 33,100 in the U.S. in the first half of the year, for a total of 1.37 million jobs, while the high-tech services sectors — including communications, software, and engineering and tech services — saw a net increase of 107,000 jobs, for a total of 4.44 million jobs. In that sector, engineering and tech services added the most net jobs (49,800), followed by software services, which added 44,500 net jobs.

> Even the communications services sector saw its first net job growth since 2000, adding 12,700 jobs, according to the AEA.

“The less-good news is [that] despite this, tech industry job growth is still lagging that of the private sector,” James said. “What we see from this is that tech companies are hiring for technical positions inside the U.S., but they’re having a hard time filling those positions. This growth could accelerate if companies were better able to get qualified workers for these positions.”

> The AEA’s findings back up the latest CIO Magazine Tech Poll, which has indicated for some time that CIOs at companies with 5,000 or more employees have been having more difficulty finding and keeping IT workers.

-- Linda Rosencrance

107k: Net job increase in the first half of 2006 for the high-tech services sector.
Source: AEA

What’s Hot

Percentage of CIOs who said these tech skills are most in demand in their IT departments:

Microsoft Windows Server 2000/2003 administration 80%
Network administration (Cisco, Nortel, Novell) 79%
Database management (Oracle, SQL Server, DB2) 71%

Job categories that are experiencing the most growth within the CIOs' departments:

Help desk/end-user support: 19%
Networking: 18%
Applications development: 12%

Note: Survey respondents were permitted to cite multiple skills.
Source: Robert Half Technology’s quarterly IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, a national poll of more than 1,400 CIOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with more than 100 employees

Health Care Costs and Coverage
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust released their 2006 Employer Health Benefits Survey late last month. Here are some numbers gleaned from the phone survey of 3,159 ran­domly selected public and private employers:

  • Premiums for employer-sponsored health coverage rose an average of 7.7% in 2006. That’s down from 9.2% growth in 2005 and well short of the recent peak of 13.9% growth in 2003. But it’s still more than double the rise in workers’ wages (3.8%) and overall inflation (3.5%).
  • Premiums have increased 87% since 2000.
  • Family health coverage now costs an average of $11,480 annually, with workers paying an average of $2,973 toward those premiums. That’s about $1,354 more than in 2000.
  • The percentage of small companies (those with three to 199 employees) that offer health care coverage fell from 65% in 1999 to 60% in 2006. Coverage at companies of 200 or more employees decreased from 99% to 98% during that period.

Page compiled by Jamie Eckle.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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