The Mythical IT Shortage

It seems you cannot turn on a newscast or read a business magazine these days without hearing about this mythical IT shortage. I’ve been hearing about it for years. The truth is, there is a glut of IT talent on the market. While the industry rags have been quoting the lowest unemployment for IT professionals in ages, they strategically waited until enough had been on unemployment so long they fell off. It is legal fraud, but fraud none-the-less.

Quite simply the industry marketing…err…I mean analyst firms are getting paid a lot of money to say anything which will justify boosting the cap for $10.00/day employees. There hasn’t been a shortage of IT talent since prior to 1990. If the country keeps up its trend of off-shoring there will be a devastating shortage of home grown IT skills in less than 8 years. That will be about the time we see Enron type trials happening for the companies which have been hiding off-shore failures in the books. We have been seeing a lot of claims about off-shoring success, but we haven’t seen any actual success. The difference between a claimed success and an actual success is quite simply, the claim. When you have a new system or enhancement which is an actual success, you don’t have to tell anyone. The business simply works better and it is obvious to all who do business with it.

The truth about how well the off-shore thing has been working is now apparent in the trade press for those who know how to read it. Multi-million dollar contract cancellations. Lots of new off-shore contracts running significantly less than 2 years in length. In the past these deals were running 5+ years in length. That just doesn’t happen anymore. You can only hide so much in the books before the auditors uncover it.

Here is a simple test you can all perform. Go to a contracting Web site like Dice.com or some other site you frequent. Pick a skill set which is not widely available. Scan the contracts and keep a log of them. Return every month and scan again. What you will see is the same requirement moving from pimp to pimp to pimp not getting filled. The reason isn’t a shortage of skills, but a shortage of business ethics.

A while back I was contacted about an OpenVMS FORTRAN gig by a recruiter who couldn’t speak English. I recognized the requirements and the general location enough to know what the billing rate was there two years ago. It used to pay up to $90.00/hr to the consultant. The pimp which called me was looking to pay under $40.00/hr. If there really was a shortage of IT people that contract would be offering $110-150/hr. I followed the listing for a few months, watching it move from pimp to pimp, then lost interest. I don’t think it ever got filled. I’m pretty sure management used it as a justification for going off-shore or for violating a student visa.

For anyone willing to look at the details it is easy to see there is no IT skills shortage. Contracting rates have not climbed into the deep three digit per hour range and starting salaries for employees have not sky rocketed. No, my friends, this is just a new spin on an old scam.

I’m old enough to remember when there was a shortage of IT professionals. In those days, you didn’t post your resume anywhere, but you got at least three phone calls per week from recruiters offering up jobs paying more than your current job. Normally you held out until you got either a really great position, or doubled your money. People generally stayed places less than two years and doubled their salary at least every 4 years. Now, the salary you get hired at is pretty much the salary you will die with unless you move into management.

There is no shortage of IT people, only a shortage of ethics.

 

Roland Hughes started his IT career in the early 1980s. He quickly became a consultant and president of Logikal Solutions, a software consulting firm specializing in OpenVMS application and C++/Qt touchscreen/embedded Linux development. Early in his career he became involved in what is now called cross platform development. Given the dearth of useful books on the subject he ventured into the world of professional author in 1995 writing the first of the "Zinc It!" book series for John Gordon Burke Publisher, Inc. A decade later he released a massive (nearly 800 pages) tome "The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer" which tried to encapsulate the essential skills gained over what was nearly a 20 year career at that point. From there "The Minimum You Need to Know" book series was born. Three years later he wrote his first novel "Infinite Exposure" which got much notice from people involved in the banking and financial security worlds. Some of the attacks predicted in that book have since come to pass. While it was not originally intended to be a trilogy, it became the first book of "The Earth That Was" trilogy: Infinite Exposure Lesedi - The Greatest Lie Ever Told John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars When he is not consulting Roland Hughes posts about technology and sometimes politics on his blog. He also has regularly scheduled Sunday posts appearing on the Interesting Authors blog.