Schools Aim to Fill IT Job Demand

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Employers across the nation are finding it increasingly difficult to fill information technology (IT) positions, mainly because of a shortage of qualified entry-level and advanced employees, according to industry experts. Contrary to what many people believe–that available IT jobs are on the decline–businesses throughout the United States say the IT sector offers more job opportunities than ever, and they’re struggling to find employees to fill these many openings.

Industry insiders point to a few reasons for the shortage, including the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law and lingering perceptions from the dot-com bust that occurred earlier this decade. Now, experts are trying to change these perceptions–and they’re looking to schools for help.

Part of the reason many people think the IT field holds little promise is they don’t understand things have changed since 2000 and 2001, when the IT field took a hit, said Gene Longo, senior manager of U.S. field operations for Cisco Systems’ Networking Academy program. “In 2000 and 2001, when the dot-com bust happened, and then [immediately after] September 11, we saw lots of layoffs in the IT and tech industries,” Longo said, adding that many students and professionals shied away from the IT field when they saw jobs were scarce. But that was then.

Job opportunities in areas such as computer software engineering, computer support, and systems administration are expected to increase must faster than the average for all occupations, with computer software engineering projected to be one of the fastest-growing occupations through 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “2006-07 Occupational Outlook Handbook.”

According to the federal agency, computer systems analysts are expected to see a 31-percent increase in total employment from 2004 to 2014. Network systems and data communication analysts are expected to see a 55-percent increase in total employment during that time, and computer software engineers should see a 48-percent increase in employment.

Longo believes another reason for the lack of qualified IT employees in the United States can be traced to high school reform and NCLB, which puts the focus squarely on core skills such as reading, science, and math–and therefore might not give students the chance to explore IT courses or electives while in high school. continue reading

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