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Thursday, 19 June 2008 10:09

USA: Jobs, jobs, jobs and too few candidates to fill them

“Google Pittsburgh is looking for engineers with great aspirations”, says the advertisement. While only talented software developers and visionary computer scientists anxious to work on the next big thing in the new office need apply, the lack of suitable candidates may be an issue.

Pittsburgh not trendy enough? Then why not apply for the post of interaction designer at Google New York, the senior network engineer at Apple, California, or as a software developer at online bookseller Amazon, in Seattle... or hundreds of other high and lower profile jobs in the industry?

The problem is that there are thousands of IT jobs in the United States needing to be filled, with 85,000 in one job board alone. Clearly, the skills crisis ailing the IT industry isn’t exclusive to Australia.

Despite this manpower issue, states like Pennsylvania, where Pittsburgh is located, are pushing ahead with an aggressive US$2.8 billion plan to attract more high-tech companies and generate more jobs. They are also actively recruiting worldwide and thinking outside the square to motivate young people to take up IT as a career.

In the last five years, Pennsylvania has attracted more than 780 new IT projects and companies to the area, creating in excess of 82,000 new jobs.

Rebecca Bagley, deputy secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, says there are currently 210,000 high-tech workers earning a total of US$15.1 billion annually in the state.

“It’s one of our very important sectors and we are recruiting nationally and internationally including in Australia,” says Bagley.

She says it should not be difficult to attract professionals to this, the nation’s 7th biggest “cyber state”, because people like to live not only where they can hold stimulating jobs, but also where they can have fun, raise families and have quality of life, something Pennsylvania promises to offer aplenty. (Continue to Page 2)

In fact, some of our readers might have seen the Pennsylvanian stand at CeBIT Sydney this year where the state was not only recruiting workers, but also companies and investors.

Companies like Apprise Software (ERP), Cybersoft (security), Rajant Corporation (continuous availability) and ZedX Inc (agricultural web-based applications) were showcased.

But one of the local IT industry bodies, the Association for Information Systems (AIS) has declared there is a definite catastrophe afflicting the industry. It is anxious about what it calls the 'enrolment crisis in computing', a reality that also pains Australia.

“Some of us believe that this is the biggest threat to our field. It also represents a significant threat to organizations that cannot fill positions,” says the association’s private wiki.

While Bagley says she is not aware of an enrollment crisis, the AIS is setting up an inland on the virtual world Second Life to communicate better with undergraduate students. When launched, it will be a place where undecided students can explore technology careers, debunk some myths and teleport to universities and colleges to sample some of the IT courses on offer. Hopefully they will be pleasantly surprised by what IT promises.

But the prognosis for salaries isn’t very good with the InformationWeek US IT Salary Survey 2008 recently recording a fall in the median pay for the average IT professional for the first time in 11 years.

Albeit a small drop – salaries fell an average of US$1,000 a year – the prediction for growth is not rosy, given the weakening US economy, on-going outsourcing and what the publishers say is “an industry-wide mismatch between skills and job titles”.

The finding is in direct contrast to the above-inflation salary rises observed by researchers in Australia and New Zealand in the last 12 months.

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