Interviews

Enterprise Executive recently visited with David Keirsted, director and product manager Information Technology (IT) Americas Group for Kelly Services, Inc., to learn what factors are causing a shortage of talent in the IT space and how CIOs can become good stewards of talent. David is responsible for creating and implementing IT workforce strategies, including contingent labor, direct hire, Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Contingent Workforce Outsourcing (CWO).

EE: Many people are talking about the shortage of talent in the IT space. Is this true and what’s causing it?

Keirsted: Yes, I do believe there’s definitely a shortage of talent in the IT space and it’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better. I say this because as I continually talk with IT executives, they tell me they’re having difficulty finding some of the key talent needed to fill critical positions. Certain areas of IT are more difficult than others to locate experienced talent, especially when seeking staff in areas of high-end application development. When you look at some of the data that’s being released—either employment data or graduation rate data—I think it backs up what I’m hearing from IT executives.

During the last decade, graduation rates for computer science degrees have declined about 25 percent overall. There were sharper declines earlier in the first six or seven years before graduation rates rebounded a little in 2009 and 2010. That’s also coupled with what we’re seeing in terms of the employment numbers. The employment rate for IT hovers around 3.5 percent, but if you dig deeper in certain areas, such as software programming and some of the network engineering areas, it’s closer to 2.5 percent. That’s worrisome due to the increasing demand for IT talent and the decrease in the graduation rate. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast job growth for 2010 through 2020 based on employment data, they’re anticipating that IT job growth is going to be about 21 percent.

The result is that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. If you look at some of the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] data that’s being released based on future employment projections, four of the top eight highest growth jobs are coming from IT. All of these dynamics are really impacting the ability for CIOs to find IT talent.

EE: How so?

Keirsted: Well, you have the labor pressure, increase in job growth and the declining graduation rate. This confluence of factors is causing a shortage of IT talent. When these factors are more closely reviewed, you can see certain areas where the graduation rates for computer science are not keeping pace with the demographics for graduation rates in other disciplines. For example, if you look at women in particular who are pursuing a degree in computer science vs. pursuing other technology careers, that’s a very underdeveloped area of IT. While the number of women graduating has significantly increased, the number of women graduating with computer science degrees isn’t increasing.

EE: If good talent is a highly sought after resource with fewer individuals coming into the workforce every year and demand is increasing, what do CIOs need to focus on to become good stewards of talent?

Keirsted: This is something I’ve been talking with CIOs and other managers about over the last year. We conduct a survey every year—the Kelly Global Workforce survey—and we’ve reviewed about 300 IT leaders in the U.S. Sixty-three percent of them stated that the lack of IT talent is going to have a negative impact in their organization due to the resulting skills gap.

CIOs really need to take a look at how to become good stewards of talent. Most experts agree that STEM jobs are essential to our growing economy and vital to our nation’s competitiveness. The computer-related area of technology within the U.S. comprises 49 percent of STEM employment. That’s almost half of all STEM employment! Demand is going to continue to increase, and we simply don’t have the supply of talent we need to satisfy the demand. So, CIOs really need to look at treating and nurturing the talent resources they do possess in terms of stores of talent like you would a scarce resource that’s diminishing.

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