The Great Skills Shortage Debate

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2001-05-21 Print this article Print

Is the shortage of crucial skills real, or are IT employers just too picky?

On one hand, theres dot-com die-off. there are H1-B visas going begging. There are job boards seeing IT job-seeker traffic as if theyre Los Angeles freeways. On the other hand, enterprises are still gnashing their teeth, hungry for networking, security, e-commerce/Internet, customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning skills that they say they just cant find.

It all raises an obvious question: Is the IT skills shortage real or imagined? eWeek asked a couple of well-known—and very opinionated—experts on the subject to take a crack at providing answers. Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America trade group, maintains in the article below that the talent shortfall is still running in the range of some 425,000 IT jobs that will go unfilled this year. An opposing voice, University of California, Davis, computer science professor Norman Matloff—long an opponent of what he says are unreasoned H1-B increases and discriminatory enterprise hiring practices—answers that this shortfall is a bed that enterprise IT has made with its growing fussiness over hot skills. Having made the bed, IT must lie in it, Matloff says.

Whos right? At the end of the day, perhaps it doesnt matter. What matters is whether your enterprise has the IT skills it needs to stay alive, and to grow, during these troubled times. Whether you get there by training, changing your hiring strategy or outsourcing should be determined by circumstances and values unique to your enterprise. Please feel free to join the discussion by sending your take to

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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