Tech skills shortage to return with a vengeance

Things might not look too hot at the moment, but pretty soon knowledge worker skills are going to be in demand again and the employers who showed a dark side during the recession will struggle to fill vacancies.

Despite the recession, New Zealand still has a severe shortage of building industry skills and there are pockets of the IT business where vacancies have remained since the global economic meltdown began.

Australia is already showing signs a severe shortage of IT skills could hamper companies and government departments as early as next year. In Demand for ICT professionals on the rise, bottom is in Stan Beer at iTNews reports; “The bottom in ICT employment has been reached and demand for skilled jobs is once again on the rise, according to the latest market survey from a major technology recruiter. The news adds to a growing list of evidence of a return to health of the ICT jobs scene.”

A week earlier ITNews covered a report from Australia’s largest recruiter Peoplebank saying the demand for contractors was rising. A similar story appeared in CIO magazine in June with Seek Employment noting the overall job market was stabilising with IT consultants in high demand.

Australia’s ITNews reprinted a story from Britain’s Computing newspaper on July 7 saying the antipodean nation is busily recruiting IT specialist in the UK to meet a shortage.

On a related note, The Australian reported on a skills shortage in research organisations in Upgrade ignores skills shortage. And the New Zealand Herald reports there are many shortages in engineering.

The New Zealand edition of CIO magazine carried a report which suggests the majority of employers in the IT sector still face a skills shortage despite the recession. Despite downturn, opportunities remain for APAC IT candidates suggests one in four tech employers expect to increase their headcount this year. The story singles out specific skills in business analysis, datawarehousing, ERP (Oracle/SAP), web development and infrastructure (architecture) as being of particular interest.”

Some shortsightedness is in evidence in IT training budgets slashed at ITNews which suggests employers have slashed skills spending and can expect to see a serious skills vacuum by 2112.

What does this mean?

First, it’s a safe bet the skills shortage will return to Australia in the next year or so and to New Zealand soon after – the two countries are effectively a single market for knowledge workers. If anything it could be worse than before for a couple of reasons. Many skilled workers will have drifted off into other occupations or even early retirement. At the same time employers have cut back on training during the recession. While there are increased numbers of people taking tertiary courses in technology and similar subjects, many won’t enter the workforce in time for the recovery and they’ll have knowledge, but little experience, which means only a handful will hit the ground running.

Employers who behaved cut back staff, skimped on training or held on to skilled workers and pushed them too hard during the recession will all suffer once the skills shortage kicks in again. Knowledge workers will be able to drive better bargains – and recent experience will teach people to look beyond the pay packet.

3 thoughts on “Tech skills shortage to return with a vengeance

  1. When you use the phrase “labor shortage” or “skills shortage” you’re speaking in a sentence fragment. What you actually mean to say is: “There is a labor shortage at the salary level I’m willing to pay.” That statement is the correct phrase; the complete sentence, the intellectually honest statement.

    If you start raising your wages and improving working conditions, and continue to do so, you’ll solve your “shortage” and will have people lining up around the block to work for you even if you need to have huge piles of steaming manure hand-scooped on a blazing summer afternoon.

    Re: Shortage due to retirees: With the majority of retirement accounts down about 50% or more, people entering retirement age are being forced to work well into their sunset years. So, you won’t be getting a worker shortage anytime soon due to retirees exiting the workforce.

    Okay, fine. Some specialized jobs require training and/or certification, again, raise your wages and improve benefits! You’ll incentivize people to self-fund their education so that they can enter the industry in a work-ready state. The attractive wages, working conditions and career prospects of technology during the 1980’s and 1990’s was a prime example of people’s willingness to fund their own education.

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