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Is the technology skills gap fact or fiction?

Gary Beach | Sept. 6, 2013
Does a skills gap exist in the United States in general and in the IT market in particular?

How do economists explain the employment enigma of a skills gap?

They point to several scapegoats. First, they blame overly selective employment practices of firms. Dr. Peter Capelli, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, says "employers, with an abundance of workers to chose from, are demanding more of job candidates than ever before. They want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away without any training. To get a job, you have to have a job already. It's a Catch-22 situation for workers."

Dr. Capelli has a valid point. Try this: Log on to your favorite job website and type in the search box the title of an IT job. For example, I did this with the job posting section of and entered the job title "computer system analyst." Within seconds I found several "computer system analyst" job postings that ran on for more than 400 words. Here's just one example:

Commenting about these lengthy job descriptions, a job-seeking IT executive said, "employers are advertising for purple squirrels and pink unicorns, they want the perfect job candidate and that person just doesn't exist."

Dr.Capelli also blames the skills gap "open" job syndrome on employers that are stingy and "can't get candidates to accept jobs at the wages offered." That, he says, "is an affordability problem, not a skills shortage." The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, however, refutes Capelli's "affordability" argument in a recent report that claims less than one in 10 jobs remain "open" because of the salary card.

But why should IT professionals, who work in an industry that has an unemployment rate of 3.14 percent even care about the "skills gap"? Isn't the "skills gap" something liberal arts majors should worry about?

Absolutely not.

CompTIA, a technology association focused on professional development, reports in a recent study that "93 percent of employers indicate there is an overall skills gap among their IT staff." That's an amazing number. But not entirely surprising. Log on to Google or Bing and type "technology skills gap" in the search box. You can expect roughly 22,300,000 returns.

Where Are Biggest Gaps in IT SKills?
So just where are the "skills gaps" in the tech field. According to the CompTIA study, the specific tech jobs where skills go wanting are "security/cybersecurity, network infrastructure, big data, server/data center management and data analytics/business intelligence." And finding qualified candidates with these skills is getting increasingly difficult. One Web startup in Boston recently offered its staff a $30,000 referral bonus for finding an "awesome" software developer.

How current are your technology skills? I often ask that question to IT professionals. Most answer by saying,"I am too busy doing work that needs to be done to hone my skills in those areas." That is a very shortsighted strategy.


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