Skills shortage makes hiring harder

In the US, the lack of good candidates means IT employers are having to dig deeper for staff

It’s no secret that today’s hiring managers need talent with technical skills and practitioners with domain and industry knowledge. However, the demand for these professionals is quickly draining the talent pipeline. Simply put, there aren’t enough candidates with the necessary skills to fill the number of positions available in today’s IT job market.

This shortage is leaving hiring managers hard-pressed to find candidates with the right combination of skills and industry expertise. As a result, they will be forced to wade deeper and deeper into the talent pool to find them.

Some factors contributing to the struggle to find top talent include the recent healthy US economy and low unemployment rates. Therefore, companies with the foresight to implement savvy recruiting and retention practices today will benefit as the IT talent pool continues to shrink.

The demand for IT talent is growing at a steady rate, driving wages in the technology field higher each quarter. In fact, according to the US Department of Labour, the technology sector is expected to grow at an average of 18-26% in the period from 2004 through to 2014.

By the end of last year, the technology sector continued to demonstrate solid year-over-year growth. What job seekers can expect in 2007 is strong demand for project managers, bio-statisticians, business objects managers, firmware engineers, hardware engineers, Java developers, mechanical designers, Microsoft developers, Oracle consultants, Oracle database administrators, SAP consultants, SAS programmers and systems architects.

As new technologies continue to enter the business world, the demand for these skills will continue to grow this year and beyond. Therefore, wages will continue to increase as hiring managers put a premium on candidates with these maturing skill sets. One recent example is the SAP and Microsoft co-launch of Duet, a software application so new that it has relatively few practitioners thus far. With SAP technology constantly evolving and new upgrades introduced regularly, practitioners with domain experience and the skills to plan, build and maintain these systems will be in high demand and will help drive wages upwards.

In addition to a strong IT backgrounds and extensive industry experience, skill in handling crisis situations will be another characteristic driving candidates to the top of the hiring stack and wage-pool this year. In today’s competitive job market, those who demonstrate how they have helped organisations meet and overcome crises will have a strong upper hand.

One final factor to consider is demographics. As baby boomers near retirement, we will see organisations and hiring managers looking to quickly fill positions. However, with more and more tertiary students not pursuing IT programmes, the demand for skilled talent will skyrocket.

The good news for job seekers is that the aforementioned factors are putting tech professionals in the driver’s seat, and, as a result, these experts can aggressively negotiate compensation and perk packages. In order to procure the best candidates, companies will need to offer highly competitive wages with healthcare and superannuation benefits.

Employers are now looking at project work as a viable solution. Consultants engaged in this type of work can leverage their experience from various projects to secure a long and fruitful career in IT.

Since the need for high-level talent won’t wane any time soon, the prospects for IT professionals with technical skills and domain and industry knowledge appear limitless. It’s hard to predict when the hiring bubble will burst, so until then, hiring managers will have to decide how much they’re willing to shell out for the best talent, and job seekers should keep this in mind when considering and negotiating offers.

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