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What is the biggest problem you face today as a CIO? For me, it is a toss-up between cybersecurity and workforce shortage, but I would need to side with workforce shortage, especially since it impacts cybersecurity. The workforce statistics from the Department of Labor are sobering when it comes to IT talent. They estimate there will be nearly 1.4 million computing-related jobs openings available in United States this decade. At current college graduation rates in computing, we can only fill 32 percent of those jobs with U.S. computing graduates. For cybersecurity positions, the current unemployment rate is 0 percent.
“As CIOs, we need to be working with others to clearly articulate our workforce needs. “
You really do not need these statistics to understand the problem. You see it every time you recruit for technology positions. Whether it is in cybersecurity, big data, network architecture, software development, etc., the pool of qualified candidates is shrinking. I have found myself getting more creative to fill the positions to get the work done. This is becoming such a large issue for me that Workforce Transformation has become an initiative on my Five-Year Strategic Plan.
I remember being asked to speak at my local university in the early 2000s. I was told then that enrollment was dropping at the university’s technology schools because students feared that outsourcing was taking the jobs away. It is ironic that when I speak now at local universities and colleges, more than half the students are from other countries. The technology continues to grow at an exponential rate, with more jobs available than skilled people to fill them.
I am sure you hear the complaints about filling positions and retaining staff at CIO conferences, luncheons, and other gatherings. But what can be done about this? What can we do so that when we retire, we leave an IT workforce behind to take over? When I first started working in IT, it was a mainframe world. IT is completely different now and we all had to change our skills as the technology changed. How do we ensure a workforce for tomorrow that has the skills needed for tomorrow?
We can all relate to the problem, but let’s talk about what each of us can do to build the solution. Competing with each other for the few available IT candidates in the marketplace will not solve the problem. We must work together to expand the IT workforce. We must find other people who need jobs, who can be trained in IT, and accelerate them through an IT training process. We must mentor. We must lead. We must collaborate.
Universities and Colleges
Meet with your local university and colleges ON A REGULAR BASIS. Ensure that they know what you need from them. Sit on their advisory boards. Support their legislative actions. Have a voice when they plan for schools and curriculums. This brings close collaboration that will help ensure that their graduates are good candidates for your open positions. This works even better if you can do this through a group of CIOs or a professional organization comprised of CIOs.
Get a handle on the internship programs at your local colleges. Leverage college students for short-term assignments and long-term interns. This cuts your costs and helps the students become hirable. Set goals for the number of interns you want each year. By leveraging the interns, you can expand your workforce and begin to get students excited about working in your organization. This helps develop a workforce pool for entry-level positions.
IT Bootcamps and Workforce Accelerators
A new type of organization is beginning to appear in various cities across the country. These organizations take young adults, usually at-risk, and train them with IT skills and professional development skills. The programs sometimes include a short internship to help further enhance their experience. Some programs tailor the training to specific needs of client organizations. In Henderson, NV, we were able to fund one such program with Transmosis and McKinsey through a State-awarded STEM grant. Many CIOs and business leaders who recognized the need for such a program invited another program, ITWorks by TechImpact, to Las Vegas. These programs are working hard to expand the local IT workforce, seeking individuals who are not typically on the IT education and career track. Look for these in your own community. Partner with them if they exist, or invite them if they do not exist. They bring much value to expanding the entry level IT positions. You can then focus on developing your current staff for promotional opportunities.
Women in Tech
We all know that women are an untapped resource when it comes to the IT workforce. Speaking as a woman, IT has been a great career for me. I encourage girls and women to consider a career in IT. However, there are many reasons girls do not enter IT, and even more reasons women leave IT. I feel it is my personal responsibility as one of the few women CIOs to evangelize my career choice and encourage others. To better understand the issues facing women in IT and to learn how your organization can overcome them, check out the National Center for Women & Technology (NCWIT). They have compiled much research on the topic and have many resources available to assist companies with this issue. Now is the time to actively recruit girls and women into the IT field.
It takes a village. Complaining about a problem does not solve it. We all need to work on this together. We need to bridge education and training with the work environments. As CIOs, we need to be working with others to clearly articulate our workforce needs.
Society for Information Management (SIM) Las Vegas is comprised of IT leaders from private, public, and educational sectors throughout the Las Vegas valley. The SIM Las Vegas members established the following initiatives that we are currently working to achieve:
• Education Initiative: Spread IT interest, awareness, and opportunities for students
• Workforce Initiative: Support growth and diversity of Southern Nevada’s IT professionals
• Cybersecurity Initiative: Support organizational cybersecurity for Southern Nevada organizations
Committees have been created to develop and execute action on these initiatives. Though SIM Las Vegas members chair each committee, members and non-members comprise the committees. This creates a collaborative and comprehensive approach to these initiatives, and gets more individuals involved throughout the community.
The IT workforce shortage is not a problem that will solve itself. This is something we all need to actively work towards. We need to ensure we cast our nets wider when soliciting for people to enter the IT field. We need to become actively involved with encouraging kids and adults to pursue an IT career. We need to collaborate with each other, with education institutions, and with new business models to ensure our country has a bright future filled with technologists to support our companies and our government organizations.