I wasn’t able to make the PolicyBEST breakfast this morning, but I did see a few highlights about the booming technology sector in Georgia. One in particular was from Jon Richards regarding Governor Nathan Deal’s statement on Georgia needing a skilled workforce to meet the needs of business:
— Jon Richards (@SiteROI) December 2, 2015
Georgia is rich in the technology business, as I’ve said on here before, and there needs to be (and are) talented Georgians to fill positions within those businesses. We need a good education system to build a foundation on which people can learn on their own, but the burden of developing the technical workforce shouldn’t fall totally on the shoulders of our public education institutions.
There has been public debate on whether or not there is truly a shortage of people with “IT skills” (programming, systems administration, storage, networking, and other technical skills). An article by Baron Schwartz from TechCrunch disputing the shortage is probably one of the more provocative articles I’ve read. The author’s premise is that the shortage is a lie, and that the real shortage is the number of companies who invest in the development of talented people.
I can understand why that perception is there. Just go out to /r/sysadmin on reddit or read some of the comments on LinkedIn linking to articles reinforcing the position that there is a shortage. You’ll see a few accounts of how job postings want, for example, a systems administrator who can do the job of a networking guy and a storage guy but will only pay the salary of a sysadmin, or a job posting for a junior-level position requiring a laundry list of skills plus previous experience in that specified area (I’ve always been under the impression that the junior-level is where you learn from mentors and build your skill sets).
A lot of this has to do with the mindset of some companies that IT (staff, equipment, services, etc) is an expense that affects the bottom line rather than a investment in their business. Thoughts of saving money by consolidating That’s not to say that businesses shouldn’t use their IT dollars wisely, but providing good benefits, environment, and developing staff will be an attractant to talent.
One thing that strikes me is that many IT positions have a requirement of a 4-year degree, but there are a lot of talented people who want a career in technology, but they don’t have that piece of parchment. I believe our technical colleges and even technical classes in high school can do a lot for building the foundation for a career in technology (analysis, problem solving, critical thinking, etc.), but we should even think more broadly. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are available to teach some basic IT skills, like the basics of Linux, and even offer certifications. Interactive tutorials are also available that can teach basic programming skills and new programming languages. In fact, a lot of these tutorials are freely available if you have a computer and an Internet connection. It’s a new paradigm in developing these skills: online and on-demand vs. traditional teacher-led class.
In short, preparing Georgians for the technology needs of businesses is a shared responsibility. It’s a team effort between our state’s educational system, businesses investing in developing and growing talent, and individuals who work to invest in themselves to learn and hone their skills to meet the demand.