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HR Pressed by IT Skills Shortages, Growing Demand


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​Data released by CompTIA shows that while there were 84,000 net new workers added to technology teams in September, the month also saw approximately 302,400 technology job postings, and all signs indicate that there could be prolonged hiring difficulties for employers in the foreseeable future. 

CompTIA, a Chicago-area nonprofit association for the information technology industry and workforce, relied on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for its analysis. The organization also said tech industry year-to-date employment is tracking 22 percent ahead of 2021.

As the economy wobbles under higher interest rates, inflation, the Great Resignation and the redesign of work since the pandemic, the tech sector has remained strong, according to Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA. In fact, the tech sector, as well as the broader economy, keeps producing new jobs.

"We do seem to be defying expectations," Herbert said. "You could argue that companies are still coming out of the pandemic and they are still readjusting, but then there's also the overall macro trend. Companies are using technology now to support more business functions, and there is growing demand across a lot of different technology skills."

CompTIA's analysis shows there is high demand for workers in areas such as software development and engineering, IT support, IT project management, systems engineering, and network engineering.

However, recent announcements of layoffs suggest many tech companies are examining their bench of IT workers, terminating employees where necessary, and developing new approaches and technology features in a changing economy. 

In recent months, several large technology companies have made workers redundant. Tech giants like Microsoft, Oracle, Meta and Twitter have announced layoffs, saying they are restructuring their operations while evaluating and reprioritizing their business needs.

A recent survey from Gartner highlights another problem. The survey of 18,000 employees in the fourth quarter of 2021, which included 1,755 employees in the IT function, found that globally only 29 percent of IT workers have high intent to stay with their current employer. The number is lower in Asia (19.6 percent), Australia and New Zealand (23.6 percent), and Latin America (27 percent). In Europe, the best performing region, only 4 in 10 IT workers (39.8 percent) have a high intent to stay in their positions.  

As companies use more sophisticated technology, another trend is taking shape—companies are starting to see a reorganization and reorientation around different sets of skills and requirements, and this is having its own impact on IT workers, said Will Markow, vice president of applied research at Lightcast, a labor market analytics research firm in Moscow, Idaho.

Markow noted that during the past two and a half years, the nature of jobs and the skills within IT have evolved and matured. For example, cloud technology, cybersecurity and data analytics showed signs of robust growth and demand before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the economy. The pandemic then established these technologies as some of the largest fields within IT, and their use is breaking down silos within IT while providing a bridge for worker engagement across different technology domains.

One example is skills related to data analytics. "Employment for data scientist has grown more than 50 percent since 2019, making it some of the fastest growth we have seen in IT overall, but we are also seeing that workers in data analytics are increasingly being asked to work with other IT domains, whether it be engineers or cybersecurity professionals," Markow said. "We are definitely seeing a breaking down of the walls between analytics and many other domains."

The pairing of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, and the fact that cloud has been paired with every other IT domain in some capacity, are further examples of what Markow describes as fusion of disparate IT domains with one another, which is having its own impact on tech employment.

For instance, there's been a noticeable shift away from asking skilled IT workers to apply their domain-specific expertise in a vacuum and much more of a desire to see them collaborate with other IT teams, which in turn necessitates new levels of teamwork and cross-functional collaboration, Markow observed.

"This type of fusion requires you, as an employer, to invest heavily in building new capabilities across different IT teams in ways that you didn't in the past, which means there is no existing training infrastructure in place to support that," he said.

Employers will be forced to upskill current workers or employ new tech workers in a labor market that is starved of skilled IT workers and is struggling with a declining labor force participation rate, decreased immigration rates and decreased birth rates. These factors will contribute to the difficulties employers will have as they try to fill higher-skilled IT roles in the near term.

"We just aren't going to have enough people to fill those roles, and automation is not quite at the point where we can fully rely on technology to pick up the slack," Markow said.

He added that a good strategy for HR executives to adopt is to identify talent within the company and to invest not only in workers that have tech skills but also among workers on nontechnical teams.

"One of the best hedges in a market with any uncertainty is to find ways to constantly invest and upskill your existing workers, and to use that in collaboration with other strategies to build your technical talent," Markow said.

Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.

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