IT Skills Shortage A Chance for Unemployed Workers

IT Skills Shortage A Chance for Unemployed Workers

In this Q&A, CompTIA President and CEO Todd Thibodeaux confronts the IT skills shortage, misconceptions about IT careers and ways to connect unemployed workers with the thousands of tech jobs that are still available.

The argument over the so-called IT skills shortage has two familiar sides: On one hand, employers say they can't find the skilled IT workers they need to fill jobs. Even today, in the midst of a worldwide economic recession that has left millions of U.S. workers without jobs, employers claim that they can't find people with the right skills.

On the other side of the debate, legions of qualified IT workers (CompTIA estimates there are 12 million of them) wonder how such a skills shortage exists when so many of them are looking for a job.

In the middle of this conundrum is Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, which provides training and certification programs for experienced and aspiring IT professionals.

Thibodeaux sees both the job opportunities available in IT and the people looking for them. His mission is to connect all displaced workers-not just those in IT-to opportunities in the industry through skills training and certification. He spoke with about the job opportunities available in IT, misconceptions about IT careers, and why a computer science degree isn't a prerequisite for an IT job.

What job opportunities are available in IT?

There are about 200,000 to 300,000 good-paying IT jobs available. To this day, if you open any newspaper or browse any job board, not just IT job boards like Dice, IT jobs are in most abundance. We continue to hear from companies, whether they're hospitals, universities or in IT, that they still can't find highly-skilled, quality labor.

How can companies say that they can't find skilled workers when there are so many people out of work right now? I'd think the marketplace would be flooded with quality candidates.

The companies that are doing layoffs aren't laying off skilled IT labor. They're retaining those workers because they know they'd be tough to replace.

From what we've seen and what our partners in training communities have seen, the people who've lost jobs have been in operations, administration, sales and marketing. These people tended not to be highly-skilled. People who are highly skilled in security, network administration, and have soft client skills are in short supply.

But people in IT have lost their jobs, too. Are you saying that those people aren't skilled, or that they don't have the right skills, and that's why companies are having trouble filling open positions?

That's potentially the case. A lot of people don't have the right set of skills, or the jobs are in different parts of the country. The shortage may be geographic-it may be that companies that are looking for people can't find people in their area. It may also be that the jobs that are available aren't at the right salary or in the right field for the people who are looking.

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