Economy, Job Creation Front and Center at CompTIA Breakaway 2011

CompTIA, the nations largest IT organization, is heading into its annual conference, Breakaway 2011, next week in Washington D.C., where Congress may yet be struggling with the national debt ceiling crisis. At the rate negotiations are going, it is possible the IT industry meeting could take place with the issue unresolved until Tuesday, Aug. 2, the deadline when the government says it can no longer meet its debt obligations.

If the decision comes down to the wire, Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO for CompTIA, said he expects the debt ceiling to be the topic of hallway conversation and mobile market monitoring among Breakaway attendees. The bottom line is that everybody is tired of uncertainty in the market,” he said.  Thibodeaux acknowledges that the IT industry is doing better than other industries due in part to the rise of the managed service model, but says there has been no sharp pickup in economic activity” across the board. We are sick and tired of not know what is going to happen.”

Earlier this month CompTIA released results of its IT Industry Business Confidence Index, which showed that confidence about current and future prospects for the IT industry was overwhelmed by anxiety over the U.S. economy. The third quarter index fell 2.0 points to 52.9 on a 100-point scale. Though still in net positive territory, this marks the same spot for the index as in Q3 and Q4 of 2010, a sign that the nations economy has yet to truly break out of its funk,” the association said in a July 18 press statement.

Thibodeaux said he doesnt plan to discuss the stalemate over the debt ceiling directly, but many of the associations initiatives will center on political and economic goals.

For example, he said, CompTIA will kick off its Congressional Small Business Information Technology Caucus with a breakfast and presentation by Congressman Peter J. Roskam (IL-06) on Thursday morning.  

It also is starting two new programs focused on the IT workforce and job creation.

The first is the Global IT Workforce Council, which will be a small group about 15 members including individuals and representatives from business, the channel, government and academia that will work to define and promote effective strategies to ensure an IT workforce of sufficient quality and quantity.  Some of the initial members will be announced at the event.

Weve seen the President out talking about manufacturing and how great manufacturing jobs are, when, in fact, the IT industry produces more jobs than manufacturing and the jobs have better career paths and better salaries. They are more the jobs of the future,” Thibodeaux said. We want to have a greater voice in that.”

A related effort is a new campaign aimed at educating students in the ninth through 12th grades about opportunities in IT careers. The working project title is, IT is Cool!”  While a lot of the details are yet to be finalized, one of the key tenets is to help youth understand that a career in IT doesnt mean sitting in a room writing code. Not every kid is going to be a math and science genius. There are lots of careers in IT, which are really good, that dont require that,” Thibodeaux said, pointing to roles in sales, account management and project management. The biggest [misperception] is that IT is all programming jobs that got outsourced to India.”

This work seems well-timed. In the latest IT Business Confidence Index, 34 percent of IT companies said they intend to increase staffing over the next six months and 38 percent said they intend to maintain staffing at current levels. Medium-sized IT firms are the most likely to hire new staff.

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