Coping with IT Personnel Shortage in the ChannelBy Michael Vizard | Posted 2007-08-15 Email Print
Opinion: Solution providers need to be creative when it comes to finding skilled IT workers.
One of the chronic problems facing solution providers these days is an inability to attract skilled IT talent because there is a general shortage of people available with the right skill sets.
This is a problem that is endemic to the whole industry because IT organizations within end user companies are reporting the same problem, which largely stems from the fact that after the downturn in the economy earlier this decade, a lot of people soured on careers in IT. This means we're graduating fewer people from college with IT skills and those that left the business earlier this decade don't seem to show much interest in coming back.
This personnel shortage therefore is a macroeconomic problem that isn't going to be alleviated any time soon, so solution providers are going to have to get creative when it comes to finding people with the right skills. In fact, one of the valuable roles that an industry association such as CompTIA can play is helping to drive a creative approach to attracting more IT talent into the solution provider pool. With that goal in mind, CompTIA has developed a Creating Futures program for veterans that provide them with the necessary skills to enter the IT work force once their service is completed. This program at the moment is a nascent effort, so it's not like we'll see thousands of returning veterans entering the solution provider work force tomorrow, but if the number of solution providers that sign up to participate in the program is substantial enough, the word of mouth about the demand for their services will spread pretty quickly around the armed services community. And if anybody knows anything about, say, project management, it's somebody who served in the military.
The challenge, however, isn't that there are not enough job applicants but rather that there are not enough applicants with the right job skills. Alas, this is where many solution providers turn into variations of George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees, who is well-known for preferring to acquire talent rather than develop it.
The arguments against developing talent are pretty well-known. Nobody likes to spend a lot of money training people only to see them walk out some day and join a competitor. But not everybody in the company can scale the pay grade at the same time. There are only so many senior positions, so it's a fact of life that people are going to move on in search of new economic opportunities. Expecting them to stay put forever is just an unreasonable expectation. Instead, solution providers need to develop vibrant farm systems that ensure there will be a steady flow of people in the system that accounts for the inevitable attrition. And yes, some of that attrition may flow out to your competitors, but overall you will have a much more dynamic organization that will not be affected as dramatically every time a position becomes open.
The one other advantage that solution providers have when it comes to recruitment is the simple fact that the IT challenges associated with supporting multiple customers is a whole lot more exciting than managing the systems for one organization as a member of an internal IT department. Moreover, the pay is generally better because the solution provider is a commercial entity that is making money off the skills of its IT personnel, compared with most companies, which as consumer of IT services tend to think of IT as a cost center that needs to be contained.
Whether recruiting among veterans, internal IT people or students, the one thing that solution providers need to remind people is that working for a solution provider is largely both fun and financially rewarding. Sure, there are days when everything goes wrong and you ask yourself why you even got out of bed. But by and large, working for a solution provider is one of the best jobs you can have in IT and maybe it's time solution providers started reminding people about that.