Tech Talent Drought

Tech Education

Tech Talent Drought

Around 30 years ago I pointed out this telling statistic. I heard it in the mid-80s.

“In America there are 10 lawyers for every engineer. In Japan there are 10 engineers for every lawyer.”

Guess what? … It’s only gotten worse.

Here’s a sad state of affairs at a time when many Americans are needing jobs. Colleges are graduating students every semester with a ton of student-loan debt and a degree they can’t use.

Sit down with any Human Resources person in a technology company and ask them what their biggest challenge is. Almost across the board you will get the reply – finding talent. Technology companies from coast-to-coast are struggling to fill the vast array of unfilled vacancies at the front line of their organizations.

A tech recruiter relayed the story that he was at a networking event recently when the CEO of a young startup company told him he would pay a fee of $400,000 if the recruiter could find five great engineers.

Sounds insane, doesn’t it.

When you consider tech talent at the leading firms can represent several million in revenue then a half million in fees sounds rather paltry. There’s a tech talent drought leaving nobody to fill open positions.

So what’s the problem?

Much of it is the education selected by students over the last decade or so.

Consider this data from the Marginal Revolution blog:

[box] In 2009 the U.S. graduated 37,994 students with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information science. This is not bad, but we graduated more students with computer science degrees 25 years ago![/box]

It gets worse…

From the same blog:

[box] In 2009 the U.S. graduated 89,140 students in the visual and performing arts, more than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined and more than double the number of visual and performing arts graduates in 1985.[/box]

Tech Talent Drought

So here’s what I don’t understand.

An Engineering degree costs as much as a Psychology or Performing Arts degrees and the income potential is vastly greater for nerds. It begs the question, why are young adults pursuing degrees that have them more likely making coffee at Starbucks rather than enjoying the weekend with the top down on their new Beemer spending that big tech paycheck?

I think it comes down to shortsightedness sprinkled with a little laziness.

Engineering is hard! It requires work, lots of it. But hey, if it’s the difference between a six figure income or the title Barista, I think I could figure out how to get the work done.

I think much of it is based on the times. We are raising a generation of American Idols with dreams of making it in Hollywood. What many of them don’t realize is they stand a better chance of getting struck by lighting than striking it rich in Tinsel Town. For every Brad Pitt or Angeline Jolie walking the red carpet, there’s a million actors pouring Cappuccino for another aspiring actor reading the want ads.

Every good tech engineer stepping out of college today can be making mid-six-figures within five years.

For every Bill Gates and Steve Jobs there’s a thousand Zuckenburgs ready to make their mark in the tech world as we speak.

Solve the tech talent drought. Learn programming.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Tech Talent Drought

  1. Audrey Geddes

    Excellent article. These statistics are quite startling and I agree we need even more talented tech graduates to keep up with the demand of an ever increasing high-tech world. John R. Fox has written a wonderful non-technical book about the process of software engineering in his book, Digital Work in an Analog World. This book offers something for everyone in the software profession. You can find the author’s website at http://www.analogdevelopment.com/

    Reply
  2. Bob Nolin

    I was an applications programmer from 1986 until 2004. What I saw happening was that programming jobs were all moving to Bangalore, and staying in the field became impossible: the jobs were simply all gone. I don’t know where you’re getting your facts from, but they are certainly not representative of my experience.

    Students are majoring in the creative fields, or ones with “soft skills,” because these cannot be outsourced. Creativity is necessary in the current economy. By the way, I was an art major and programmed to put meat on the table. I went back to art when the jobs left town.

    Reply

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