The Information Technology (IT) Gap in The U.S.

An under-representation of cross-diversity in the IT Workforce
Keywords: IT workforce, IT professional skills gap, under-represented groups, virtual social networks.

There's something in the "air" in today's Information Technology (IT)employment environment. You can almost hear it; it's not unlike an ultra high pitch sound of air escaping from a microscopic fissure in an overblown balloon. This analogy of the sound of escaping "air" is nothing less than how IT employment growth is slowing down in these United States. It's a fact: today's IT employment environment has gotten tougher to compete in and harder to create a diversified ITworkforce. This employment situation is defined by two trends:

(1) A more selective behavior by hiring employees for IT candidates which creates more competition for the IT professional. (2) There's a downward spiral in the number of minorities and women in the IT workforce and efforts by IT employers to boost this number are not working.

Downward Market Trend Impacts Upward Mobility Goals of a Diverse Workforce
According to the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), executive searches in the technology sector, "were down more than any sector in the second quarter of 2007..." (McGee, M.K., 2007). The report states a 14 percent drop in executive searches compared to theprevious quarter. The picture being painted is one that finds both job seeker and recruiter faced with difficult times. The IT professional is confronted with a more difficult employment sector whereby her or she must compete with other highly qualified professionals and just as importantly, stand-out amongst this qualified population. This must be balanced with the fact that employers are also looking to diversify their work force. Employers are being hard-pressed to find a qualified AND diversified IT population in which to select appropriate candidates to fill much needed positions within their companies.

Untapped Market Does Exist
There exists a largely untapped and un-marketed population of highly educated and diverse IT resources and it is within the confines of campuses across the nation. The most recent findings report that a high percent of college students are studying in highly technical fields and many are not finding adequate resources to effectively promote their skills and knowledge base. Although there exist many online social and professional networks that provide "direct marketing" between IT professional and corporation, effective marketing should begin while the student is in the final throes of completing their degree - many students may find this a daunting task but the earlier that one markets themselves the better they become as marketers of "self" and the more exposure they gain.

Hurdles Also Exist
One of the biggest obstacles that IT college students find is that they may not have the required experience to work a particular job. An effective way around this hurdle is to promote oneself as a member with team-based skills willing to work in demanding environments to identify and provide IT business solutions. In many situations both the company and the IT professional (recent grad) will find a viable partnership that promotes personal and professional growth for the individual and an excellent return on investment for the company. IT professionals must work toward further education both traditional and self-directed to gain/remain qualified in their respective fields and eventually branch out into new areas for a more diversified skill set. In this day and age of blogmania and online professional networking, it is imperative that soon-to-be and recent college graduates work toward building strong social networks, both online and in the real-world. Recruiters can provide much needed diversified IT professionals through continuing to build upon several mechanisms: building partnerships with academic institutions, internal hires, referrals, web-based hiring, and other recruiting firms.

Why Diversification?
In this time of recession it becomes even more imperative that organizations focus on building a diversified workplace as it improves organizational productivity, creativity, and the better its overall performance due to a more heterogeneous management team. It has also been suggested through studies that organizational problem solving improves among heterogeneous populations of employees. It will be interesting to find out what trend a global recession has on the flight of offshore jobs the U.S. has seen in recent years. The market demand, albeit more competitive, will see many of the reported 100,000 computer software and services jobs that have moved offshore since 2000 (Information Technology Association of America, 2004) returning to America. Out of these 100,000 jobs it is critical that employers attempt to identify and pull-in significantly higher numbers of underrepresented IT professionals. Data shows that a large proportion of the US IT workforce continues to reflect a low level of minorities and in some cases, such as with women it has declined by as much as 185% since 1996! (Information Technology Association of America, 2005).

Employers Are Selective Today
Due to the downturn of the economy many employers have become more selective in their search for IT candidates. There exists a industry recognized "matrix" of IT skills that employers recognize: Hardware/software, programming languages, e-commerce, technical support, website design, database, etc. Due to the competitive nature of today's job market the IT professional must develop skills that separates them from the rest of the IT pool. This can came in the shape of obtaining formal education (or completing that education you have already started), training and certifications.

Final Thoughts
The reality of the issues relating to IT diversification within industry show that in order for both company and individual to succeed there must be a symbiosis between these two entities: companies must continue to strive to identify and pull in a diverse cadre of IT professionals and IT professionals must continue to go that "extra mile" to improve their "hire-ability."

1. McGee, M.K. Report: Executive IT Recruitment Is Slowing Down. 2007. Retrieved from: /showArticle.jhtml?articleID=201800366, July 5, 2008.

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