In a worrisome economic trend, Labor Department data shows the number of job openings in the U.S. dropping to 3.66 million in July, down from 3.72 million in June.
With job openings on the decline, you’d think employers would have their pick of qualified applicants. While that may be true in some industries, it doesn’t seem to be the case for companies in the IT industry. According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 71 percent of companies in the tech sector are having a tough time recruiting for specific jobs in their organizations.
Much of the difficulty seems to arise from the desire to fill IT jobs demanding new skills. When asked about open positions, just 23 percent of survey respondents said they demanded the same types of skills as in prior years. Sixty-four percent said the jobs required a mix of new and old skills, while 13 percent said completely new and different skills were needed.
Seventy-three percent of the surveyed companies found recruiting for open positions a difficult task in 2011, up from 47 percent.
Out with the Old Skills, In with the New
As companies focus on growth, they are looking at areas like mobile application development, to feed consumers’ hunger for mobile apps, and Big Data analysis, to glean insights for product development and marketing. The problem, of course, is that skills associated with these still-emerging technologies are scarce.
A blog post about Hadoop, a popular framework for working with Big Data, clearly illustrates the problem, quoting MWD Advisors analyst Helena Schwenk, who says developers working with Hadoop must be familiar with a variety of technologies, data components and architectures. On Schwenk’s not-so-short list: large-scale distributed systems; programming languages such as Java, C++, Pig Latin and HiveQL; predictive modeling, natural language processing and text analysis; data management; integration of structured and unstructured data; and architectural support for scalability and high-speed processing.
Schwenk mentions training existing employees. That is one option being pursued by 53 percent of companies that participated in a survey about Big Data administered by non-profit IT industry association CompTIA. Thirty-two percent planned to hire folks with Big Data skills, while 28 percent said they would work with third-party providers or contractors to fill skill gaps.
Seeking Service Options
Those results mirror what seems to be a broader trend. In a post-recession world, employers want to be able to react quickly to ever-changing market conditions. They are seeking options outside the traditional full-time work force, not just contractors and service providers, but new variants of cloud computing and managed services. Michael Kirven, CEO of IT consulting and staffing firm Bluewolf, got it right when he described companies’ desire for an Elastic Workforce.
While traditional outsourcing will be one way of meeting these staffing needs, so will managed services, cloud services, consultants and other options. Even “traditional” outsourcing is becoming less so, as companies modify contracts to satisfy their desire for more flexibility. Clients are increasingly asking for shorter outsourcing agreements, for example.