Report: Half of IT job openings will go unfilled this year

U.S. companies will seek to hire an additional 1.6 million information technology workers this year, but they will be able to fill only half the positions because of a shortage of workers with the appropriate skills, according to a study released by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) Monday.

Arlington, Va.-based ITAA, which released the results of the study at the Third Annual National Workforce Convocation held in Chicago, said it based its findings on 700 telephone interviews with randomly selected IT managers — 200 at IT companies and 500 at non-IT companies — at companies with more than 50 employees.

Smaller companies — those with 50 to 99 employees — will face the greatest demand for IT workers. Those companies — defined as businesses that do not develop IT products for sale but use them in their own operations — need 1 million IT workers this year, according to an executive summary of the study posted at ITAA's Web site.

One-third of all new positions during the next 12 months will be technical support jobs, with employers especially interested in workers with skills in troubleshooting, customer service, hardware and software installation and systems operation and maintenance.

The study also covers the overall size of the IT workforce, the skills workers need to land hot IT jobs and the best ways for workers to acquire these skills.

ITAA President Harris Miller said the study departed from previous IT job assessement surveys in that it expanded the definition of "IT" to include areas such as Web design and technical writing.

Steven Flynn, senior analyst at Specifics Inc., an IT research firm based in Atlanta, said he believes that it's unfair to separate demand for Web developers from programmers because Web development positions also require knowledge of programming languages, such as XML.

Kazim Isfahani, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Norwalk, Conn., said one issue that's not being adequately addressed in the IT labor shortage is job hopping, he said.

"Employees are being pulled from one organization to another, driving the labor rates (higher)," he said. To prevent employees from being heisted, said Isfahani, companies will have to invest in a workforce management plan to retain highly skilled employees.

Another way for companies to fill specific positions is by drawing talent from exchanges for consulting and contract services, such as Vivant Corp. and Computer Horizons Corp. "Companies need to have (IT workers) to fill strategic projects that are coming online now," and firms need to find ways to mitigate these shortages, he said.

The executive summary of the ITAA study doesn't mention legislation pending in Congress aimed at alleviating the IT worker shortage by allowing more foreign nationals in the U.S. under the Immigration and Naturalization Service's H-1B program. ITAA has announced its support for legislation that would increase the limit from the current 115,000 per year to 200,000 per year (see story).

The ITAA study was sponsored by Cisco Systems Inc., Complete Business Solutions, Cyborg Systems Inc., DeVry Inc., ITI Technologies Inc., ITT Technical Institute, Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., the Society for Information Management and SRA International Inc.

Computerworld staff writer Kathleen Ohlson contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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