“Techies love their work”, the headlines screamed last week. Apparently it’s true. According to a report out yesterday from staffing and resource firm Hudson, 80 percent of “techies” are happy with their jobs—the highest it has been for two years.
This is great news for everyone in our sector. Except that it may be a case of too little, too late. Positive headlines and an increased awareness of technology are always fantastic news, but the crisis that faces our sector has already begun, and raving about how great it is to work in the IT industry now is like to using a spoonful of water to put out an inferno.
The skills shortage facing the technology sector is global. An IDC study commissioned by Cisco Systems has reported that the networking sector in Asia Pacific faces a skill shortfall of almost 400,000 professionals. It’s a similar picture here and across Europe. And the problem is spreading. When I spoke with a Cisco executive a few weeks ago, he admitted to me that even if the company releases a new product every single day, it is irrelevant if there is no one able to implement or deploy the technology.
So if “techies” are so happy in their jobs, as the Hudson report claims, why are recruitment and staffing levels so low?
The first reason may be the very terminology we use to describe people working in the sector: “techies”. That title connotes people who are somewhat socially inept, and who wear anoraks and sandals with socks. And while once in the sector you realize this is far from the truth, to anyone outside this is their perception.
The other factor is the lingering hangover from the dot-com fallout. Where working for an Internet or technology company was once deemed cool and exciting, now it’s viewed as risky and unstable. Parents are urging their children not take up technology courses in schools, but rather encouraging them to aim for more general business courses or for skills in more traditional industries.
Here is the crucial point: The skills crisis needs to be attacked on two fronts. First, we need to make IT cool again, to encourage students and children to want to choose technology as an option, and, second, we need to give parents more confidence in the sector and promote technology to them as being the place to work.
At least if we make a start on encouraging the future generations of the benefits of working in technology, it may help to prevent us from continuing to face this same crisis in the years to come.