Duke Not Alone

By Ericka Chickowski Print this article Print

Despite what you've been told about the IT skills shortage, there's a multitude of evidence that suggests that line of reasoning is a self-serving myth. Baseline cuts in to the belly of the IT shortage debate.

These studies done at Duke aren’t alone in their assessment that there is in fact no skills shortage. They’re backed up by other studies conducted by RAND Corporation, The Urban Institute and Stanford University, among others, all of which settle upon the same conclusion: There is no shortage of educated IT workers.

“No one who has come to the question with an open mind has been able to find any objective data suggesting general 'shortages' of scientists and engineers,” said Dr. Michael Teitelbaum, vice president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, in testimony to Congress last fall. “The RAND Corporation has conducted several studies of this subject; its conclusions go further than my summary above, saying that not only could they not find any evidence of shortages, but that instead the evidence is more suggestive of surpluses.”

Dr. Ron Hira agrees there is no shortage of skilled IT workers. In his capacity as a professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, a fellow at the Economic Policy Institute and co-author of the book Outsourcing America, he has pored through Bureau of Labor Statistics data and university graduation rates and found that the United States has consistently graduated more than enough computer scientists and engineers to fill the IT jobs available in the country. Similarly, there he has seen no in unemployment rates to indicate any kind of IT worker shortage

“I don't think there’s a lot of surplus of workers, but I don't think there’s any shortage,” he said.

Hira believes the most telling pieces of evidence are the IT wage statistics, which haven’t risen dramatically in years.

 “Wages have been basically pretty flat,” he said, “and that’s where we would see numbers spike if there was any kind of shortage. You would see signing bonuses and so forth.”

Wadhwa echoes his sentiments.

“It doesn’t add up,” Wadhwa said. “We live in a free economy. If we were sitting in a government controlled economy it would be one thing, but in a free economy what happens is that when shortages begin to develop is that prices rise and the money compensates for the shortage.”

Added to the hard data offered by government and university statistics is the empirical evidence coming from seasoned IT workers who, like Wadhwa’s students, increasingly complain of worsening job prospects in the IT market.

“Some people will reject that as anecdotes or they'll blame those workers for not keeping up with their skills, so there are ways of dismissing it,” Hira said. “But who's to say that when Bill Gates gets up or Craig Barrett gets up to say that there's a shortage that that’s not an anecdote either? I mean, nobody's really pressed them on providing data to support their statements. We're sort of taking it on faith that what they're saying is right; when in fact they get hundreds of thousands job applications for positions pour into their companies every year.”

This article was originally published on 2008-03-05
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