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Tech: The Job Seekers’ Place to Be

Todays job seekers can be excused for feeling a strong sense of whiplash. Just as one forecast offers evidence of an uptick in hiring trends, another report calls for lowered expectations for job hunters.

The overall U.S. unemployment rate stood at 9.1 percent in August. Yet as of July 31, there were 3.2 million job openings across America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The same paradox is present in the IT industry. IT workers have experienced their share of layoffs during the recession and the slow-moving recovery. Its a fact that some domestic IT jobs that were sent overseas will never return because workers in other countries with similar abilities can do those jobs at a significantly lower cost.

But its also a fact that IT jobs are readily available today in the U.S. and will be available in even greater numbers in 2012 and beyond.

Job site Indeed.com recorded more than 450,000 IT industry job postings in August. Thats 25 percent higher than August 2010. Similar results occurred at Career Builder, Dice, Monster and other job search engines.

Another positive indicator is a September report from commercial real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle, which suggests the high tech industrys job rate is growing nearly four times faster than the national average, the result of consumer demand for new technology and businesses adopt new technologies, such as cloud computing.

Of course all job markets are not created equal. San Antonio, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York, Baltimore, Greensboro and St. Louis are among the current strongest markets for high-tech jobs.

As companies look ahead to 2012 and beyond, many are seeking IT talents to make their day-to-day operations more efficient, more mobile and more secure. Here are a few examples:

  • Programmers and application development skills for Web sites, internal systems and the mobile environment are in high demand in many industries, including healthcare, retail and transportation.
  • Networking, particularly in a world where more and more organizations are using IT solutions that are on-premise, in the cloud or some combination of the two.
  • Social media, as organizations expand their use of online platforms to interact with customers and partners.
  • Security remains a top-line concern for companies of all sizes and in virtually all industries. The mobility element is in play here, too, as organizations move to become more mobile without compromising security.
  • Many employers still struggle to find computer support technicians, which is still the best first job for new workers to break into the IT industry.

Businesses are looking for, and are willing to pay for, technology workers with these skill sets and others that help make the company more competitive and more productive.

So how is it that at a time when there are millions of unemployed Americans, employers have the help wanted” sign out for hundreds of thousands of IT jobs?

A big contributing factor is the skills mismatch between what many IT workers offer and what employers want. If the credentials and experience of the job seeker do not satisfy the desired qualifications of the jobs offered, the openings will remain unfilled. The ever-accelerating technology adoption curve places increasing importance on the need to continually update skills of the high-tech workforce.

Keeping technical and business skills current and relevant is something that both sides of the employment equation employer and employee must address.

Its easy for companies to sign off on training when business is good and profits are high. Its a much tougher call when the focus is on every dollar on the bottom line. But on-going training and education of IT staff is not a luxury, but a necessity.

Individual workers must regularly take an inventory of their skill set and evaluate what they bring to the table. A diverse set of technology credentials rather than super depth in one area is also attractive to employer because most IT pros invariably have to interoperate with a variety of products, networks and applications. Demonstrable skills that are verified with professional credentials and certifications are an even bigger plus in the hiring game.

As a non-profit association for the IT industry, CompTIA is working with a number of our members and other organizations the Department of Labor, National Association of Workforce Boards, high schools and community colleges, Career One Stop centers, training providers, job websites to develop and promote new opportunities for careers in IT. The CompTIA Job Board is one example of the resources available to IT pros and employers.

The role of the IT professional is more strategic for organizations. Technical skills alone are no longer enough. Individuals who are securing jobs in todays tech workplace are equipped with greater versatility and a broader skill set than was required in the past. More than ever, employers value IT professionals who can think strategically, communicate effectively and who possess strong business fundamentals. IT workers who understand how to use technology to meet business goals, and who can articulate this understanding, are golden in the eyes of employers.

About the Author

Todd Thibodeaux is the president and CEO of CompTIA, a non-profit trade association dedicated to advancing growth of the information technology industry through educational programs, market research, networking events, professional certifications and public advocacy. For more information, visit www.comptia.org.


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