All of those recruiter calls point to a growing challenge facing employers: It's taking them longer to fill open positions. Half of the managers surveyed by Computerworld said that it has taken at least three months to fill open IT positions in the last two years.
Lance Abla, principal systems engineer and specialist SE manager at EMC, spent more than six months finding the right candidates for three positions in EMC's presales consulting group. He says he's not seeking one specific skill but a wide range of knowledge in storage, networking, operating systems and "everything middleware and below."
"They have to be able to talk intelligently to C-level execs and customers, and make a case for why we should assist that customer in not only the services and software, but the hardware that they use to run their IT platforms. It's pretty hard to find people who have that breadth and depth of knowledge," not to mention the personality and professionalism that's required for the job, he says. "That quality where everyone perks up when they speak, or when they enter a room they have this presence -- I can't teach those things."
While positions remain unfilled, the projects are piling up for current IT employees. Some 26 percent of respondents said that in the past year their working conditions were significantly affected by unfilled open positions, compared to 20 percent in 2013. One-third of survey takers said they were affected by new understaffed projects.
Solutions architect senior manager Dane Bamburry received a 3 percent raise this year from his employer, Cox Enterprises, the same pay increase he had last year -- but he also got an 18 percent bonus for his efforts on two major internal cross-divisional projects that required him to work an extra five or six hours several days a week.
"In my immediate department we have a shortage of employees right now," says Bamburry. "I'm trying to procure funding to add additional staff."
Bamburry, who oversees a staff of five, says he fields eight to 10 phone calls a year from headhunters looking to poach employees with technology strategy skills -- especially people focused on mobility and cloud. "Those are the buzzwords of today," he says.
But he chooses to work the extra hours and stay with the company because he likes his team. "We have a good group of people, very collaborative, and a positive environment," he explains. "The career and growth potential so far have been good. If you have a good working environment with people you get along with, that's always a big plus."
Skills cooling off
Even as the need for some tech skills rises or stays steady, demand for others is cooling off. Staffing firm Robert Half Technology sees the biggest declines in mainframe and midrange computing skills like Cobol and AS/400 as the migration away from mainframe computing environments to Web and mobile systems continues, says John Reed, senior executive director at RHT.
Mainframes aren't disappearing, of course, but employers won't be paying top dollar for mainframe support. "I have mainframe guys on my team who clearly have not begun to recognize that they haven't maintained skills that are marketable outside of a small subset of the world," Abla says.
And while quality assurance is still very important in the software development life cycle, demand for QA specialists has slumped a bit as organizations are asking software developers to do their own QA work. As a result, "we have seen a decrease in [demand for] black box testing skills to a degree," Reed says.