During the bearish economy after the dot-com bubble burst, information technologists were faced with a grim job market - jobs were hard to find, partially as a result of offshore outsourcing, and the ones that were available paid significantly less than jobs at the height of the boom.
So it's nice to hear that today IT talent is, once again, in demand on Wall Street as firms embrace a renewed focus on growth. However, the increase in demand for skilled tech workers may reveal a creeping shortage of supply. The perception is that many technology jobs will be outsourced in the next few years anyway, so it's no wonder that today's college graduates aren't choosing careers in IT. Universities report that the number of students focusing on computer science as a major is down drastically from the dot-com boom. And it's not just computer science that is failing to attract the best and brightest - engineering and most other science programs at universities report a drop in enrollment.
Back on Wall Street, however, firms are gearing up for growth, and they're scouring college campuses, looking to bolster their IT ranks (see this month's cover story, page 28). While financial services firms aren't reporting a shortage of qualified, IT-focused talent, they are reporting a competitive environment with rising salaries. According to IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology, the financial services sector will hire more IT workers this quarter than any other industry. As any Economics 101 student will tell you, rising costs (salaries) are generally caused by a shortage in supply (workers).
But is this just another typical employment cycle, or does it foreshadow larger technology education and IT staffing problems? The deflated computer science enrollment numbers indicate that the problem already has hit higher education. The IT staffing problem, on the other hand, may depend on financial services executives' comfort level with outsourcing (see article on BPO, page 36). Most CIOs, however, say they are comfortable outsourcing only non-core, mostly back-office functions. Unless it becomes routine to send the development of a core trading system to Bangalore (something that most CIOs say may never happen), eventually there will be a problematic shortage of technology talent - unless, of course, the IT career becomes fashionable again.
Is it becoming harder to find IT talent? What's your take on IT staffing in financial services? Write to me at [email protected].
On The NetGreg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio