Information services jobs can't be filled fast enough

The economy is shifting and so are the jobs that fuel it. Today there are more people employed in information services than in producing things. For instance, in Shifting Gears: Thriving in the New Business Economy author, Nuala Beck sites these statistics:

·        The telecommunications industry employs more people than the auto and auto parts industries combined.

·        More Americans make semiconductors than make construction equipment.

·        Almost twice as many Americans make surgical and medical instruments as make plumbing and heating products.

This economy is rapidly supplanting the old one, whose growth was driven largely by manufacturers.

Clearly, people with computer related careers will be in huge demand. In fact they already are. The Corporate Technology Directory for 1995 lists hot growth companies; 23 percent were software services providers. "The field of Information Technology is showing the largest growth of any other industry, " reports Ken McAteer, Vice President of Placement for the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). McAteer is well aware of the huge demand, since he doesn't have enough student graduates to fill corporate needs. (MSOE's overall placement rate is a whopping 97 percent.)

Information technology is the umbrella term that has evolved to describe the technological infrastructure and knowledge that is required to make information available anywhere, anytime to anyone. Information technology includes things such as voice, data, fax, pagers, video, E-mail, information networks, hardware, software, systems, and the Internet.

McAteer explains, "Computer- related jobs can be found in any industry today. For instance, we place graduates in utilities, education, manufacturing, finance, retail and transportation. In one utility, 50 percent of all new hires in 1996 were software engineers. If you take the medical field alone, MSOE offers a whole new degree in Medical Infomatics, which is managing information for the medical field. Our new Nursing Program is designed to be much more technical than standard programs."

You may wonder where all these jobs are, considering all the headlines about downsizing. Well, there is another trend that may be less publicized but just as significant. For every position that is eliminated, it's likely a computer- related job is being added. For example, according to Business Week Magazine, American Airlines downsized 5,000 employees between 1992 and 1994, but added over 2,200 to their Information Services area.

McAteer also reports a wealth of opportunity for any engineering discipline. Jobs in electrical, mechanical and manufacturing engineering are exceeding demand. Sales engineering is also hot. One of the newest emerging fields is consulting engineers. Business Week reports that $80 billion was spent by companies for computer- related outsourcing world- wide last year, and the projected growth is to $120 billion by the year 2000.

McAteer commented, "Companies such as Sears, Etna, and Ameritech are outsourcing some or all of their computer needs. And companies such as Andersen Consulting and EDS hire bright students right out of school (some with non-computer backgrounds) and teach them how to use the technology. Companies are finding that they can get the job done, without adding a lot of full-time employee costs to their overhead."

You might think that young people are flocking to sign up for engineering and computer-related degrees. After all, the pay levels are high and it's a great place for women and minorities to advance. But the facts show quite the opposite. For instance, nation-wide only 42,000 students graduated with a Computer Science degree in 1986; in 1994 that number dropped to 24,000. Degrees in Management Information Systems were only at the 5,000 mark in 1994. Computer Engineering degrees in 1994 were only granted to 2,200 people. Minorities and women represent only about 20 percent of those totals.

"I think math scares people off," McAteer says. "And I think some guidance counselors don't really encourage young people to pursue these fields. For instance, if someone has good communications skills, an advisor may encourage them to enter Communications or Marketing. Ironically, those people who have technical skills along with good communications skills are able to choose among many well-paying job offers, while a Marketing graduate may struggle to find a good job."

So with all this demand and not enough people in the pipeline, what is the answer? For now, companies are either growing slower than they would like, outsourcing to consulting firms or training their own. MSOE is doing summer workshops for high school teachers and counselors to educate them about careers in the new economy.

The implications are staggering. High schools need to re-think what and how they teach, colleges need to upgrade the curriculum in virtually every field, parents need to encourage kids to explore high-tech careers and we all need to embrace information technology as a foundation of career success.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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