Study: US IT labour gap shrinking, but not far enough

The labour shortage that has dogged the IT industry for years appears to be lessening, although the problem is still a significant one in the US, according to a study released yesterday by a group that tracks such matters.

          The labour shortage that has dogged the IT industry for years appears to be lessening, although the problem is still a significant one in the US, according to a study released yesterday by a group that tracks such matters.

          The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) released its latest US IT workforce data during its annual conference hin San Diego, results from which indicate that the labour gap in the IT industry is narrowing.

          In 2001, the study estimates, US companies will try to fill approximately 900,000 IT-related positions. This number falls well below last year's demand for 1.6 million new IT workers, a number driven in part by the tail end of the dot-com boom.

          While companies will seek to fill all of those 900,000 positions, the ITAA estimates that 425,000 will remain vacant because of a shortage of workers. While the news is grim, it marks an improvement over 2000, when 850,000 jobs remained open, according to the report.

          "Even in light of the dot-com bomb and a slowing economy, demand [for IT workers] continues to grow," says Harris Miller, president of the ITAA, speaking at a news conference. "No, demand is not growing as rapidly as last year, but it is still growing."

          Miller urged attendees here to continue nationwide efforts to improve IT education, especially among minority groups and women. Like others at the conference, Miller says the talent pool among women and racial minorities is largely untapped and could solve the IT labour shortage in the US.

          Non-IT companies continue to demand more tech workers, and tend to hold on to those workers for longer than IT companies, such as suppliers of software, hardware and internet services, according to the ITAA study, which polled 685 IT managers.

          Be it an IT company or another type of business, managers are keen to hold on to systems administrators in particular because of their broad skill set. Demand for even these highly skilled employees, however, is down 65% year-over-year, according to the study.

          Beyond the need for more workers, Harris says the economic downturn and the related layoffs and hiring freezes has allowed companies to be slightly more selective with the workers they hire for some positions.

          Employers want workers with strong personal and teamwork skills to compliment their technical know-how, the study found.

          Employees, meanwhile, want compensation plans along with frequent raises.

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