Too many IT jobs, too few qualified folks
- By John Breeden II
- Oct 27, 1997
Government and industry will not be able to find enough information technology workers
to fill open positions in the coming years, according to a report from the Commerce
Department's Office of Technology Policy.
"Information technologies affect every sector in the United States, from simple
office tasks such as retrieving lost documents on personal computers to creating secure
information networks for electronic commerce," Commerce Secretary William Daley said.
Severe shortages of IT workers can undermine innovation productivity and
competitiveness in the global market, he said.
The report details a problem many high-tech employers, including the federal
government, are already experiencing: IT jobs are beginning to outpace the number of
qualified people to fill them.
In 1994, 24,553 students earned bachelor's degrees in computer and information
There were an estimated 95,000 IT jobs to fill that same year, the report said.
Commerce estimates that 190,000 IT jobs are currently unfilled across the nation
because of a lack of qualified workers. By 2005, that number could grow to 820,000,
according to the report,America's New Deficit: The Shortage of Information Technology
Although that might be good news to highly trained job hunters as salaries rise, the
report noted that a lack of IT workers to manage the country's growing systems
infrastructures could paralyze industry and government.
Another study by Coopers & Lybrand said half the chief executive officers of
growing companies reported that they did not have enough information technology workers to
staff every office.
Three job categories will experience the biggest difference between available jobs and
qualified workers: computer engineers and scientists, systems analysts, and computer
The number of computer analyst jobs is predicted to jump 92 percent by 2005, from
483,000 to 928,000. Computer engineer and scientist jobs are predicted to jump 90 percent,
from 345,000 to 655,000, over the same period. All occupations combined will average a
14.5 percent increase.
The number of computer programming jobs is expected to increase by 12 percent, or an
additional 65,000 jobs, over the next seven years.
Although that number is lower than the others, 163,000 new programmers will also be
needed to replace people who retire.
The federal government is less IT worker-intensive than some industries and would thus
be less hurt by a shortage, the report said. But the federal government's sheer size would
make the shortages troubling, it said.
The solution to the pending IT crunch, according to the report, is to encourage more
students to earn computer degrees.
If the high potential salaries are not enticement enough, the report suggested that the
Clinton administration's goal of providing tax breaks to college students could help. That
program gives families a 20 percent tax break on their first $5,000 of college expenses.
Commerce released its report at a press conference this month in Washington in
cooperation with the Education Department.
The report is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.ta.doc.gov/OTPolicy/reports.htm.
A list of options to fight the problem are scheduled to be discussed at a national
convention in Berkeley, Calif., in January.
John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.