Salary Survey Extra: So, about that IT skills gap ...
Posted on
February 18, 2017

Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

What is the actual truth of the IT skills gap?

A while back in the course of the relentless surveying that we do around here, we shifted our model to include a quick sprint through questions that, in many cases, aren't related to IT certification at all. The idea was to create a sort of survey chaser — something mild to soften the sensation of having just tossed off a stiff dose of hard salary and certification data.

We started off calling this blitz of tomfoolery our Not-So-Serious survey questions, and the name stuck. Almost immediately, however, we realized that the Not-So-Serious framework presented an opportunity to snatch up just a bit more relevant data, perhaps while adding a touch of humor. So that's how we ended up with Not-So-Serious questions that are occasionally somewhat serious.

For example, at the tail end of the 2016 Salary Survey, we decided to get an answer straight from the horse's mouth. Over the past several years in the IT realm, there's been a great deal of hue and cry about the looming IT skills gap. That is to say, the shortfall between the number of job openings for skilled IT professionals, and the number of skilled professionals looking for work.

The skills gap is almost an article of faith for employers and IT industry associations: There are more open jobs than workers to fill them. Ergo, we need to train and/or import more workers. It's the idea of importing more workers that makes many skilled IT professionals in places like Europe and the United States see red.

The IT industry at large has been inordinately subject to large layoffs in recent years. And many of the people displaced by those job cuts contend that the problem isn't a lack of qualified workers, so much as it's a lack of willingness on the part of employers to pay for what you might call "first world" IT talent.

In the minds of many, the high-paying IT jobs of today are turning out to be the high-paying factory jobs of yesteryear. In other words, why pay expensive salaries to IT pros in the U.S., or Canada, or Germany, or Japan, when comparably skilled professionals can be found much more cheaply in less economically developed corners of the globe? Skills gap, shmills gap.

So we did what we always do around here when we're curious to find out more about IT. We asked our loyal survey respondents what they think:

Is there an actual IT skills gap?

Yes, but it's more pressing in some areas (security) than in others. — 35 percent
Yes. We need to train as many new IT workers as possible. — 25.7 percent
Yes, but it's overblown. Big employers just don't want to pay competitive salaries to the skilled professionals we already have. — 22.4 percent
Yes. It won't matter, though, once we get up to speed on robots and automation. — 3.8 percent
No. If it were real, then a) tech companies wouldn't keep laying off thousands of workers, and b) those poor souls would have no trouble finding new jobs. — 5.9 percent
No. It's a useful political fiction to increase access to cheap labor through immigration. — 2.8 percent
No, because both of those things. — 4.2 percent

It would seem from this overall response that those who dismiss the IT skills gap out of hand are a vocal minority. On the other hand, it bears pointing out that two of the most popular answer options, including the one chosen by the greatest number of respondents, don't take the skills gap strictly at face value.

There is a notable core of respondents, 25.7 percent, who you might say take the party line on the skills gap. It's here, it's real, we need more workers ASAP.

The bulk of respondents, however — at least those who aren't preparing to bow down before our new robot overlords — take a more nuanced view. Some think we hear about it more than is truly warranted, for the reasons discussed above. The rest are willing to concede the problem, but view it as being most urgent in certain key areas like cybersecurity.

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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