If you’re one of many employers or in our case staffing firms trying to hire high quality developers of any kind, you’ve now been introduced to the “skills shortage”. These high demand skills like .Net and Java are getting wooed by highly recognizable companies, high flying start-ups, leaders in cutting edge technology. They are getting multiple offers to change employers sometimes on the same day. I’m sure many of us in the staffing industry have several stories of high level consultants being committed to starting an engagement for you, only to contact your recruiter at the last moment to apologize but they had accepted a better offer somewhere else.
The predominant methods in the present market being used to attract developers especially with .Net, Java or Web development experience; one is to throw a pile of money and perks such as flex time, work from home, free lunches. The second is to partner with a third party vendor who sponsors H1B visa employees primarily from India and Asia. This is not solving the problem and in fact is making us dependent on foreign talent to design our most valuable product, innovation. In our case, we have established relationships with a community of developers we can ordinarily call upon but the market is making this tenuous at best.
The reality is industry is moving more and more to an applications development environment where SaaS and mobile apps are the frequent result of most product development efforts. This is requiring an increased number of development and architect resources that we as a country do not have and are not producing. The colleges have only recently seen an increase in Computer Science majors; up 22% in 2013, prior to that it was actually declining. We have a national movement to increase awareness in high schools and middle schools around STEM curriculums but very rarely do you hear of any classes specifically designed to provide high school students with an introduction to software development and coding. What are we doing in the educational system to produce graduates that have the skills to contribute to our most valuable of resources, innovation?
You would think that the movers and shakers of innovation such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, SalesForce.com, etc., would be either individually or as a group allocating a certain portion of their wealth to an organized outreach and education initiative pointed toward the high school children who are still unaware of the rewards possible in the software development industry. We see stories now fairly regularly of bright 14 year old kids developing mobile apps for their IPhone or Android or designing robots to battle each other in the ring. This is a very small portion of the youth population but I am fearful it is lulling the public into a false sense of comfort.
The reality is, in many parts of the country, the unemployment rate among IT professionals is 50% lower than what the national unemployment is and the ability to attract the best and brightest from other countries is being severely inhibited by the present immigration system. There is a fundamental supply and demand problem here and not unlike oil we either produce it here, we find places to import it or we run out.
We are not going to solve this problem overnight but if parents let their children know that to contribute to the innovation engine that drives this country in the 21st century is as important as Henry Ford launching the manufacturing era in industry, we can start the conversation that will result in change.
I challenge those deep pockets I mentioned earlier to make an investment in the future of the youth of America by ponying up a sizable dollar amount dedicated to education and training of our youth as to the benefits and fundamentals of being a software architect, developer or engineer. I further challenge the mothers and fathers of high school and middle school children to introduce them to the wonders of innovation and how it is changing and will continue to change the world on a daily basis.
Mothers, please let your babies grow up to be developers.