“If you’re a tech professional in the D.C. area with an active government security clearance, you can basically write your own ticket,” Melland says. “Agencies have had to slow down certain programs or shut them down entirely because they can’t find people qualified to do the work.”
As a response to the looming shortage of workers with knowledge of legacy apps, IBM user group SHARE launched the zNextGen initiative to offer career guidance and mentoring to young IT professionals. Its goal is to attract 20,000 new techies to the mainframe by 2010. Meanwhile, the Computing Technology Industry Association has joined forces with American Association of Retired Persons to create the Alliance for An Experienced Workforce. Its aim is to encourage the graybeards to stay on as consultants and part-time workers until a new generation of mainframe wonks arrives.
Bottom to top
The talent gap reaches the very top of the IT org chart, says Paul Groce, who heads up the CIO recruiting practice at Christian & Timbers in New York. But it’s not due to a lack of tech savvy.
“There’s no less [technology] talent today at the CIO level than there was 10 years ago,” Groce says. “The difference is that CEOs are demanding a different type of CIO for the future. Very few of today’s CIOs are trained to be general managers. That’s where the talent gap is.”
Groce says his company was engaged by a major corporation that needed to replace a CIO. The corporation has internal candidates with excellent technology backgrounds, but the CEO wanted to look outside for someone with more business experience.
“He wanted a CIO who had the skill sets to grow within the company and eventually manage a P&L,” Groce says. “It’s a shame the CIO had not trained and prepared a suitable replacement.”
If anything, the talent gap is only likely to grow wider, Dice’s Melland says. Post-9/11 restrictions on foreign worker visas, coupled with a dearth of tech-trained college grads and the retirement of the boomer generation, will drive more companies to seek expertise overseas.
“We seem to be headed into an era of not having enough highly skilled people at the same time we have this need for these people,” Melland says.