What IT worker shortage?

Time and again we read reports about the 'shortage' of IT workers, all the 'new' jobs that can't be filled. This is a load of absolute baloney.

The Information Technology Association of America recently said about 800,000 of the new IT jobs created in the US this year will have no one to fill them.

Time and again we read reports like this about the "shortage" of IT workers, all the "new" jobs that can't be filled. This is a load of absolute baloney. Have you noticed it's always about jobs in the future?

The people doing the surveying seem always to assume a conservative pay situation, where the pay rates of the projected staff will be similar to what is paid today.

With this assumption in place responders are saying their company will employ a certain amount of people.

But hang on, the pay rates will be a lot higher. The number of companies wanting to use IT is increasing dramatically thanks to e-business and other exciting technological developments.

There is a basic increase in demand for IT, which can only create a general shortage of IT workers if pay rates are somehow constrained or people are locked into their existing jobs.

But the IT labour market is as fluid and open as it gets. IT folk are human and mobile in the face of significantly higher earnings.

Further, as pay rates rise, the financial return required from IT projects including existing systems rises accordingly. Borderline projects have to be canned. This works to reduce the demand for IT staff and bring it to equilibrium.

Consider the extremes. If you could get any IT worker for $20,000 a year, you'd hire dozens of them because there are plenty of projects that would be viable at that level. If they cost $200,000 each then you'd be hard pressed to find projects worth doing. How many IT projects are sacred?

So what's holding back employment on any particular IT project? The first answer is that simply not enough money is being offered. The second answer is that the person doesn't exist to match the job description.

I know there are niche IT jobs that just can't be filled, no matter what you're prepared to pay. If it's terminal to the project then that job demand is gone.

There is no general "shortage" of IT staff on the horizon. As usual, there will be a shortage of IT staff willing to work at lower than upcoming market rates! And we do need to be careful in assessing the viability of projects in these conditions.

Am I bumping up against your staffing realities? Jump on the email and set me straight right now. Alternatively, feel free to concur.

Richard Wood is editor of Computerworld and computerworld.co.nz. Send email to Richard Wood.

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