Brain drain, or rainfall in the desert?

Recently, an IT manager mentioned to me that he has had enormous difficulty in recruiting technically able staff for his department. He told me that many candidates were unable to score more than 50% in a technical test – and these were the ones with good CVs and previous jobs with the word ‘senior’ in the title.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  July 24, 2006

|~||~||~|Recently, an IT manager mentioned to me that he has had enormous difficulty in recruiting technically able staff for his department. He told me that many candidates were unable to score more than 50% in a technical test – and these were the ones with good CVs and previous jobs with the word ‘senior’ in the title. This manager said he found this extremely frustrating – obviously – but he also wondered how other IT departments were coping, with this dearth of technically skilled staff. This bears out the experience from the IT media perspective – the editorial features which are most consistently popular with vendors, and which provoke strong responses from IT managers, are the ones about training and skills shortages. Here’s where things get slightly puzzling, though. On the one hand, the IT training providers which are so keen to be included in features are clearly successful, and often have plenty of money to splash around. The numbers of students attending IT courses is on the rise, often dramatically, and traditional academic institutions are also increasing the range and scale of their technical IT courses. But on the other hand, the skills shortage remains. And it’s not just enterprises that are suffering – integrators and other channel partners around the Middle East often seem to be critically short of skilled staff, and are often forced to bring in skilled personnel from a vendor’s headquarters. So where are all these fresh young specialists going? The most common answer is the public sector – government organisations across the region still seem to offer the best packages, and working as a civil servant is still more prestigious than being in the private sector. Another possibility is that the truly skilled are often able, and more than willing, to find jobs outside the Middle East, in the US or Europe. This may be exacerbated by the fact that many of the best students are able to study in the West, and once they go it is very easy never to return. But perhaps these are overly cynical opinions; perhaps the real answer is more simple. While the number of specialist IT staff graduating from educational institutions is growing, it may be growing at a slower rate than the IT industry itself, and starting from a lower base. Instead of a government or international brain drain, then, technical graduates are simply being snapped up as soon as they enter the market. In the meantime, then, the majority of enterprises across the region are left with the choice to employ under-skilled staff, or go without. What this means for IT and networking projects, only time will tell. Are you suffering with the skills shortage? What do you think is the cause of the problem? Write with your views to eliot.beer@itp.com. ||**||

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