In the months prior to Covid-19, the job market for IT and software people was hot. According to the Department of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for IT people hovered near 2.3% for all of 2019. Even several months into the Covid-19 economy, the IT sector is competing with the legal profession to have the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
Prior to Covid-19, companies trying to hire top technical talent were finding it more difficult to do so. As we emerge from the Covid-19 economy to the recovery, it will become even more difficult to find and retain those software and IT personnel. There are several reasons why.
Pick up any recent report from Gartner, Inc., McKinsey & Company or any other top advisory group, and you are quickly going to hear some variant of the following statement: Companies that have thrived during Covid-19 are the ones that invested in digital transformations. The ones that increase their investment in digital transformation first will be the first to recover.
They are correct. Most companies that can point to automation, Agile, DevOps, cybersecurity and cloud initiatives in their technology stack can also point to cost savings and efficiencies.
What exactly digital transformation means to a CIO or CTO can vary. The one constant is that whenever C-suite executives start saying “digital transformation,” that translates to bringing in software developers, cloud engineers, scrum masters, QA/QC and all the other associated roles. As we move toward recovery, the topic coming from more C-suite executives will be digital transformation.
The obvious thing about moving to 5G is the increased demand for telecom and infrastructure jobs. That’s just the beginning. Around the country, there are mobile app product owners asking themselves, “What will our users want when their data bandwidth goes up 100X?” There is no shortage of answers. Down the hall, the data science team must plan on what to do when their data input goes up by 100X.
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Uber, Spotify, Instagram and thousands of other companies could not have the impact they do in a 3G world. They required the expanded bandwidth that came with 4G. 5G opens an entirely new tech ecosystem. We will use entirely new software SDKs all the way to new database tools to accommodate 5G.
Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning
In 2017, The New York Times had a story about graduates from top computer science schools, with training in artificial intelligence, receiving offers up to $500,000. These are people with no work experience. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have yet to get a foothold in corporate America. It’s coming. The best and brightest talents are positioning themselves for these high-paying jobs. This leaves a void for the technology they are not doing.
Specialization Of Skills
Think of it like this: Just a few short years ago, if a company was looking for a .NET developer in a metaphorical cafeteria, they would have about 20 menu options and would need to match eight. Now, there are 75 options, and they need to match 25.
While there are more people working these jobs, each one is more specialized. The universe of candidates for each role gets smaller as we get more specialized.
Where Are They Coming From?
If IT and software jobs are going to double, where are all these people going to come from?
Computer science schools are increasing their admissions and expanding programs. Even so, universities are creating graduates in the hundreds while businesses are demanding in the thousands. H1Bs have filled many roles, but that getting an H1B is more difficult than it used to be. Bootcamps, online learning and university extension programs are providing more certificates than before.
What Can a Company Do?
Companies will need to look at backgrounds and educational pedigrees differently if they want the tech talent. Job openings that require a computer science degree may limit hiring options. There are many more ways for individuals to get technical skills.
Companies that are flexible in how people developed their skills will have more options. The technical skills one learns in a CS program are less relevant five years out. It matters much more how an individual continuously learns on their own.
Consider that women make up less than 10% of the available software developers. When there is such a demand for skills, companies need to bring in people from different backgrounds and educations if they want to get their work done.
There are many forces creating an increased demand for technical talent. The demand will only increase. How people get the skills to become the next round of talent is evolving. Regardless, today’s cloud engineer or full stack developer is in the driver’s seat for choosing where they work and for how much.
This article was originally printed at Forbes.com
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