Continuing a recent trend that has many business leaders worried, the Computing Research Association's annual survey of universities with Ph.D.-granting programs found a 20-percent drop this year in students completing bachelors degrees in professional IT fields.
The trend--which comes at a time when demand for computer-related skills is increasing, and thousands of baby boomers are retiring from technical jobs--has many business leaders concerned that they won't find enough workers to maintain expected growth.
I'm really not surprised by this. With our school systems not graduating half of the students who start 9th grade, and with the lack of emphasis on actual learning rather than test-taking, is it any wonder that of those who do graduate, few are actually prepared for college? And of that few, what incentive do they have to choose the IT field when IT is always the first budget item cut or outsourced? It is a problem though, and will likely get worse before it gets better.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 854,000 professional IT jobs will be added between 2006 and 2016, an increase of about 24 percent. When replacement jobs are added in, total IT job openings in the 10-year period is estimated at 1.6 million.
The bureau estimates that one in 19 new jobs created during the 10-year period will be professional IT positions.Technology is central to everything these days, and it's really unfathomable that this country is not doing more to help fill the IT pipeline. There is no data that anyone can show me that can conclusively prove that American kids of all backgrounds just don't want to, or can't compete in this field. I've worked with hundreds of them that do, especially the ones introduced to the information technology field early in their school lives. However most of those kids are "from the wrong side of the tracks," and there are not many resources allocated towards the curriculum and programs that sparks their interest and places them on a higher education path in the information technology field.
But the bottom line in industry is profit, and the corporate world seems to be awakening to the reality they've helped to create.
Microsoft has begun working with teachers to hold annual math camps and has launched programs such as DigiGirlz High Tech Camps, designed to provide girls in the ninth to 12th grades a better understanding of technology careers. Girls listen to executive speakers, participate in technology tours and demonstrations, network, and learn with hands-on experience in workshops.
Microsoft also has lobbied state lawmakers to boost math requirements in schools and has promoted a Math Matters program to raise awareness in schools about raising the level of math understandingIn many respects we have been squandering our greatest resource, our kids, and leaving them dependent on others to meet the future needs of this society. And not just in the IT field. The story is the same for nurses, petroleum engineers, and even teachers.
What will they be able to do for a living if all of the essential jobs are filled by people from outside the country? Sell each other hamburgers? We've got to do better than that.