IT Employment Is Back, With Changes
NetCom Information Technology, a technology training organization headquartered in New York’s Empire State Building, is witnessing a dramatic upswing in demand by corporations and individuals for IT education and certification. According to NetCom President and CEO Russell Sarder, IT is on an upswing in terms of career potential.
“According to leading industry research organizations, IT training is a $20-billion-a-year industry,” Sarder said. “Training is in demand because organizations are investing in workforce development, while at the same time adding jobs that require trained and certified individuals. I’m very optimistic about the future.”
Training has traditionally been one of the leading indicators of the overall health of the IT job market. When economic times are bad, companies reduce their spending on training, as well as the number of people they employ. Training and educational institutions are among the first to experience the downswing. As the economy picks up and organizations invest in productivity-enhancing upgrades, chief information officers start raising headcounts and budgeting for skills development. Then the phones begin to ring at training centers.
Sarder and others in the IT skills development industry are providing a much-welcomed early alert to an upswing in career opportunities. Does this mean that IT careers are returning to what we had prior to the dot-com bomb?
“Overall demand for trained and certified IT professionals is increasing,” Sarder said. “But it is not increasing across the board—in every career track. Some segments, such as software development, are declining in demand. The hot areas today are wireless, security and database management.
“There is definitely a need for nearly every IT professional to certify in project management, not only because more and more IT professionals are involved in projects, but also because employers now place high value on communication skills and teamwork.”
However, the changes in IT employment go deeper than hot and cold areas of the profession and the growing importance of soft skills. The requirements for most career tracks are changing significantly, and many people might not be aware of the ramifications of these changes.
“Five years ago, if one of our learners trained for and earned one or two certifications, we could confidently expect him or her to land a $40,000 to $45,000 technician or network administration job,” Sarder said. “Today, to successfully compete for that same job, the individual must demonstrate foundational mastery by earning CompTIA A+ and Network+ and have relevant certifications from Microsoft and Cisco as well.”
Sarder continued, “Comprehensive career track IT training today includes many more related skills than only a few years ago. The overall quality of the IT educational experience has had to improve to meet this need. The training industry now offers a greater number of highly skilled, certified and experienced instructors. Schools and training centers are more attuned to the needs of employers. Training organizations typically provide excellent online materials that supplement the classroom experience. There is a greater availability of well-equipped labs and strong emphasis for hands-on training. The training environment is different from it was like only a few years ago, and the difference shows in the quality of the technicians coming out of today’s programs.”
The demand by employers for IT professionals to be certified has dramatically increased according to Sarder. This applies to those already employed and for individuals seeking an open position. Three years ago at Netcom, perhaps 50 percent of students enrolled in a class mapped to a certification would opt to take the exam. Today that number is approaching 90 percent.
“Employers now recognize that certification offers a number of advantages,” he said. “These advantages include certification’s independent validation of skills mastery, the mark of individuals who have the ability to learn, and the higher productivity of trained and certified career-minded workers. IT workers are getting the message that certification is important to their careers, and they are responding.”
IT offers career potential for those who like and understand technology and can relate those skills to enabling the mission of the organization. The reasons that people train and certify are more important today than at any time in the past.
John A. Venator is president and CEO of CompTIA, the largest global IT industry association, with more than 19,000 members in 89 countries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.