The United States is on the verge of a labor shortage: The baby
boomer generation is getting ready to exit the work force, while Generations X
and Y lack the numbers to fill their shoes.
This situation is exacerbated in IT, where dwindling
enrollments in technology schools and a lack of confidence in the field have
caused many technically inclined young adults to steer their careers elsewhere.
Despite this, the need for skilled computer professionals is
going nowhere. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the job market for computer
professionals will grow at a record pace through 2016, with some
categories-such as network systems and data communications
professionals-increasing by more than 50 percent.
CIOs say that if they can't find experienced IT professionals to
bring into their organizations, they're more than willing to grow their own
talent. Furthermore, they feel this will be their best chance to get the talent
"Trying to bring in all of the things you need from the
outside doesn't always work," said Ebner. "But if you bring them in and grow
your own, you've got a better chance of succeeding. It allows companies to find
someone who is bright, and in one year they'll have 80 or 90 percent of what
we'll need for them. If you bring in one bright person, they can grow and learn
and mentor the next group."
Indeed, companies are increasingly looking to the younger
generation for a blend of technical and business knowledge, as well as soft
skills, to fill the IT ranks.
"The challenge for IT executives is having the people who
understand tech, culture and business," Ebner said. "They're looking in their
entry-level programs for people who show a propensity early in the cycle."
Foote said he believes that younger professionals naturally
think about IT differently, but that this has more to do with the evolution of
the field than with any bad training on more senior IT professionals' parts.
"The younger people naturally think about IT differently,"
said Foote. "It's simply cultural, as well as the natural evolution of IT in
terms of blending into their companies and no longer being seen as a classic
service organization. Older IT workers weren't trained in this way as much.
What's helping the shift along is that younger workers have changed the way IT
Saif Siddiqui, IT director of Blackfire Technologies of
a hardware reseller, said that, more than anything else, he looks for balance
in candidates, as well as an ability to fit in with his existing team.
"There is always going to be a balance between experience,
relevant or not, and qualifications for the job, with the weighting varying
based on the specific role in hand," said Siddiqui. "You've also got to think
about what the individual will bring to your team and company moving forward-personality,
vision, outlook and fit all make a difference."