Boston Pained By Tech Talent Squeeze

A Federal Reserve report found that the gap between IT jobs and available, experienced professionals is widespread, particularly in Boston and San Francisco.

Image (1) boston2.jpg for post 827The Fed’s “Beige Book” report summarizing conditions in its 12 districts from early July through late August said demand for tech workers was increasing. In August, IT employment overall reached just more than 4.5 million, according to TechServe Alliance, compared with 4 million at the start of the Recession in 2008.

In the Boston area, “there remains a shortage of skilled technical workers to fill high-end IT and engineering jobs,” the Fed said. “The general consensus is that despite a large pool of available workers, the skills mismatch prevents staffing firms from fully meeting client demand.”

Sean McLoughlin, the Technology Practice Director at HireMinds, told Computerworld that big name tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Twitter are growing in the area, and need expertise in building Web infrastructure and applications that can handle millions of visitors. He recently told Dice News that open source skills — whether for Ruby on Rails, Python or PHP — are in demand, as are expertise in data science and mobile app development.

At the same time, the Fed noted that sales of technology services to businesses and consumers in the Boston area were a bit weaker than expected. Also, it’s worth noting that Intel plans to close its chip-manufacturing plant in Hudson, Mass., by the end of 2014, resulting in the loss of 700 jobs, according to the Boston Globe.

Out West

Not surprisingly, companies in San Francisco are being forced “to compete vigorously for a limited pool of qualified workers [which is] spurring significant wage growth in these slots,” according the report.

“Significant labor supply constraints” were reported in several districts, leading to large compensation increases for high-tech workers with specialized skills in Atlanta and Kansas City. The same is happening with engineers in Dallas.

Updated to include news of Intel’s factory closing.

40 Responses to “Boston Pained By Tech Talent Squeeze”

  1. John Zavgren

    Anything that will increase the salaries of STEM workers is, in my opinion, a good thing for the profession. It can only help the people who were devastated by the great recession. Employers will, naturally, complain about the high cost of labor. However, most STEM workers haven’t had a pay increase in well over a decade.

    Increased wages will attract talented young people to the profession. That would be a healthy response that would lead to a more talented and stable labor supply.

    If you hear rumblings about increasing the number of H1B visas so that “we” can relieve this labor shortage, contact your representatives and tell them you are firmly opposed to increasing the labor supply in this way. The large employers have ample political clout; the workers none.

  2. Companies that cannot find enough IT and other tech workers in the current glut of the unemployed need to terminate their current HR staff and adjust (if not completely remove) their front-end HR screening software, and stop telling everyone that walks in the front door that they have to apply online and wait for a phone call. Doing away with nonsensical employment tests would also help.

    • This is just a smokescreen for bringing in H1-B workers anyway. This article tells us tech companies can’t find techies. I disagree. There are TONS of unemployed or underemployed AMERICAN techies, but we’re older and not cheap. Oh, and healthcare for older Americans??? These employers do not want to pay that. many larger IT companies have been systematically laying off older workers for years, despite skills, training or accomplishments. This allows the employer to unburden themselves from an old pension plan, cheapen taxes, and reduce healthcare premiums.
      It is not difficult to use a USG appraisal of wages that is based on the lowest denominator of the labor force, then advertise the “position” at this unrealistically low, low wage rate. Once the employer can show no qualified applicants , they can then apply to have H1-B workers imported legally.
      So this article while reported in earnest is telling us about a situation that is a bit bogus, to say the least. Advertised wages are purposefully deflated. I doubt that any of these employers complaining about lack of STEM workers is actively seeking American workers in earnest.

      • Glen Smith

        Current HR departments are a problem here but there are solutions. The big problem I’ve come across and not been able to solve is the incentives at the hiring manager level. The hiring manager is often encouraged by his bosses to get the work done as cheaply as possible ignoring the fact that if you get the work done as cheaply as possible, you often will have a useless end product. Knowing this, the HM is incented to “teach the horse to sing” (ie, drag his/her feet as long as possible, develop an escape plan and hope that the cheap work ends up with a productive outcome). A good team may overcome a bad plan but a bad team will mess up even the best plan. A bad team will mess up any plan. All HM can do a bad job at staffing at times and some may do so most of the time. Again, a human being is incented to avoid doing the things he/she is bad at as long as possible and even the best HM is going to build a bad team every so often. Another incentive to put off the decision as long as possible.

    • The Fed is controlled by Big Banks which means Big Business. This report is propaganda for increasing the number of H1Bs. The fact is that companies are importing people who are essentially indentured servants. The purpose is the same as tacit approval of illegal immigrants, to keep wages down!

      • Fred Bosick

        Now youze guyz!

        You’ve gone and done it, asking pertinent questions. Every time you do so, some petulant CEO cries in his free range, heritage breed sourced, organic scrambled eggs. Why it’s enough to make him burp up his latte!

        • And we all know just how superior the IT education is in a 3rd worlk country like India, compared with the graduate of a university in the United States that is actually taught how to think, how to look things up, and was expected to learn the flavor-of-the-month scripting language on his own as-needed for his studies which only taught C++ and Java formally.

          • Walter Willis

            If you saw some of the questions I have seen on a LinkedIn Professional COBOL board asked by so-called working professionals from an Asian country, you would cringe. Very simple, basic, you should know this if you took a COBOL class type questions – or know how to look in the language manual. You know what they say – you get what you pay for.

  3. I live in that “tech squeezed” suburban area. Two years out of work, doing my own training and project (to learn and demonstrate skill), yet few interviews. That core effort gets me some attention, but the positions under consideration alway want multiple years experience in not just a few areas. There is no “working into” anything anymore, the only people desired are those that have all or most of the multiple tech background in the checkoff list in the posting.

    Real training and even OJT are no longer in most employers lexicon, unless it’s a minor ancillary area. I practically begged my last employer for training at annual reviews. I never even got an acknowledgement of the request from the next higher level of management.

  4. thomas loy

    Its nice to hear, but when I get contacted by recruiters most offer me 35 bucks an hour, and that ain’t enough for contracting. The other problem is companies won’t even consider you unless you already have experience with all their job requirements. What they’re doing is making sure salaries go up by an ever decreasing supply of qualified candidates. I am actively looking to abandon software and go into another field, and I have over 20 years of experience.

  5. Walter Willis

    Being in the market for a job I keep running across situations where I have 80-90 % of what they are looking for in the skill set, what I lack can be learned quickly, I have 27 years of developement/analysis/design experience – but lacking the couple of skills I get knocked out. No, there is no shortage of qualified and capable people, there is a shortage of companies willing to pay what we are worth so they make the list of desired skills so long, that you will never find anyone with ALL the skills, so they can justify off-shoring, or getting a h1b visa holder.

    I’m in line for a consulting job with IBM – the recruiter told me to lie on the online application about having some of the skills just so I would not be filtered out and he could process me. The one skill is similar to a skill I have – using a library/change management tool.

    • thomas loy

      I hear you. That’s the problem I have. I refuse to lie to get a job. Though I don’t believe companies are hiring. I have seen jobs open on dice for months. Companies say they are looking for someone special. Right. More than likely they are trying to convince job seekers the economy is better than it is.

  6. Companies are not willing to invest in their employees. In the 1970s and 80s, companies hired someone right out of high school, trained them and they moved up the chain. Today companies want someone who has all the skills necessary for every little aspect of the job. Most jobs today are a combination of multiple jobs dumped into one such as a manager who is a Java programmer and a systems engineer. I’m sorry but that is three jobs for the price of one and those companies wonder why their employees get burned out, quit, and take a low stress job making sandwiches some where when they have a masters degree. Companies need to wake up.

    • Glen Smith

      Companies have never like training people on their dime. In the 70s and 80s, however, the margins and time before a trained worker would/could leave your employ were high enough that the 2-3 joes that turned out to be stars could pay for the 3-4 washouts (and sometimes even those guys contributed a bit) while the remaining ones paid for themselves. Now, the margins are so low when compared to other alternatives and much of what your people need to know is not proprietary along with fading employee loyalty (why this happened is obvious but that it has happened cannot be argued either), it is no longer profitable to train people on your dime, especially when you can outsource those training costs to your potential employees.

      • I think you are confusing the cause with the result.

        It doesn’t pay the average crappy company to develop people because they lost all loyalty of those people through their second rate MBA policies.

        Great companies pay for skills and understand that the right person will learn the tools. Unfortunately there are only a few of those great companies. It is unfortunate that that the average company fails to grasp that it is hiring these right people that makes Google and Amazon the profit machines that they are, not cost cutting or hiring cheap unqualified people.

  7. i have a masters in physics and have taken over 10 programming classes and have turned out a thesis which was a long porgram in php. i just brushed up on java and sql, live in the sf bay area, does someone out there know the best way to get work. i am now considering data science which needs more background but wanted an entry level programming job in java. thanks

  8. Jannett Neville

    Everyone’s comment rolled into one – short of it companies don’t even know what they are looking for – I have been actively in the market for an Entry level Businesses Analyst job, most employers (or HR) assume a BA is a four year degree not so much a profession that can be backed with a certification (CBAP, CCBA). Doesn’t help the IIBA dice rep advises to a Masters for this type of work, why would I waste time/money on a masters when my current experience (CCBA) will not even get me an interview for an entry level position?

    IT jobs as a whole have become so finite that there really isn’t anyone who can fully qualify – as having successfully worked as a manager of an IT team; I realized (very early on) that my employees were not a perfect package of all skills required, however you can build a team where talents will complement each other. Perhaps the recession has pushed for companies to want one person who can be an expert in multiply trades.

    Overall the exceptions on ONE person have only been multiplied to the point where the jobs can not be filled by anyone. In turn just as this article talks about a plethora of professionals who don’t perfectly match unrealistic expectations.

    • thomas loy

      Eventually, the lack of qualified candidates will force companies to hire even partially qualified people. Now I think no one wants to hire, but I havn’t figured out why list a job you don’t intend to fill. The flip side is rates will skyrocket to try and attract those few who qualify.

  9. Outsourced Sam

    Typical interview.

    We are looking for somebody with 10 years of experience in iOS and Android.
    How many years have you been using them?

    They aren’t 10 years old.

    Next please.

    Most of these employers end up hiring lousy engineers that can’t solve real problem. They only know a tool set. Of course the bigger majority of them simply find the cheapest labor regardless of the ability.

    • I should raise my rates. My customer complains loudly when I try to get $18.00 per hour instead of $17.00 per hour. I wish I had your problems. $40.00 per hour, by comparison, would simply be “rolling in dough. Maybe I could give-up food stamps.

      • Are you in an entry level position? In most metropolitan areas, and without much experience, you can make 22-25/hr on a help desk, which is about as basic as a corporate IT job can get.

        I spent 4 years making 28-30k/year, so I know how you feel. That position, however, is what allowed me to move on to jobs paying significantly more.

        • Working on a help desk is a good suggestion. Up until a year ago I was living in a major metropolitan city, but the only help-desk positions I found were for telecommuters. Still, I pursued those, only to be told by one that I didn’t have enough experience doing tech support in general, and another which insisted I pay for a credit check and a drug test before going further in the process. I questioned them about the credit check, and it was going to require a cleaner background than I had, since I am in default on just about every credit card that exists (a legacy of living partly off of credit cards during and immediately after grad school). At least, I saved the cost of the testing, and the job was only going to pay $7.00/hr. Now I live in a small town and the opportunities are few and far between. I just sent out a 40-hour billing to a client for the first time in 2 years. That money is already gone for utilities.

  10. Outsourced Sam

    Somebody needs to write resume software that can analyze the filtering software so your resume gets a look.

    If I had a dime for every garbage job I get contacted for and every qualified job I get overlooked for I’d be retired with my own island.

  11. The mis-matches I get are not from what I would call garbage-jobs: I keep getting matched up with high-level jobs for senior level managers that had 20-years of experience.

    Then there are the mis-matches where I have 1 discipline, say C#, and suddenly it matches up with a position that requires C#, Visual Basic, Java, Ruby, Python, Shell, Lockjaw, and be from South Africa LOL. Oh, and it will have a personalized name in the email’s from-heading, so I am supposed to assume the message is from a breathing person at the job service (Dice or a competitior) instead of a bot-agent.

  12. The real problem is that an attempt is being made to MINE some BIG DATA pool of candidates for perfect candidates all the time, and anything less than a perfect candidtae receives absolutely no consideration whatsoever.

    No matter where you go and try to get a job with, every company, whether it is some east-coast or west-coast start-up, Microsoft, Google, StupidStartUpInc, or a non-tech company such as Walmart, Ace Hardware, Walgreens, Lowes, Home Depot, Burger King, Taco Bell, or Acme Painting, the stock answer is “you have to apply to the corporate web site, and they will contact you”.

    Nobody is hiring, and nobody is even interested in money, and the top 1% in this country are too musy sitting on their pile of money counting on it to realize there might be something else out here.

  13. James Green

    Articles like this is why I stopped looking at dice. It seem the authors on these blogs make excuses for the lying corporation. I am opposed to H1B visas until every IT person who wants a job get(s) a job.

  14. Good luck getting a job in either one of those areas. And if you do, be prepared for nightmare commutes and hideously expensive housing and auto costs. The H1-B’s will get these jobs (if there really are any).

  15. Yes, I laughed when I read this article too…I concur with others that this is just big biz propaganda in order to get the government to raise the HB-1 visa numbers. The big tech companies are battering CS professionals with people who are desperate to leave their home country because of the general down trodden living conditions there. California is always better than Calcutta. A cheesy apt. in Santa Clara is better than a median dwelling in Shangai.

    I’ve been in tech since ’81 and have watched the salaries deteriorate in the Bay Area. The demographic shift is very plain to see, just driving around in Santa Clara, Cupertino, etc. Nothing against any race of people, but how is it that suddenly its 50% relatively new residents from Asia and they have tech jobs?

    CEOs like Gates, Carly Fiorina, Schmidt and Whitman have made it clear that they care nothing about the American people or economy other than as commercial units. Come on, $60K-$80K/year for a high level IT person or software engineer in the B.A.? You won’t be living a “middle class” lifestyle where you could ever buy a house or even a condo in the area on that! When I got into tech, it was a way for smart driven people to be upwardly mobile but it doesn’t seem that way anymore. The water level has risen and it really takes 2 professional incomes continually employed for 10+ years to even dream of owning a home. (starting at $500K, you need $100K down and high rents set you back in saving for that!)

    I’ve worked mostly in video/film technologies and similar things have happened there because it has shifted largely to IT skills. A “broadcast engineer” here or in the UK does not make enough to buy a home in the markets where there are jobs. And yes, further to Walter’s point about basic questions by “professionals” in Asia on LinkedIn, in broadcast engineering we see the same stupid questions from young people in Asia that they should be embarrassed to ask in public!

    Glad I was there during what I call “The Age of Enlightened Capitalism” when salaries were decent, medical benefits were paid, and they gave us stock options to work long hours and do good work.

    All I can say is that you people should be writing your representatives in Washington about the HB1 visa numbers; maybe even form a lobby group or something, because we all know that the CEOs have done that and that’s why they got their way.

  16. I too have seen many job postings where they ask for more years of experience in a tech segment that hasn’t even been around as long as the years of experience they’re specifying! Dumb. I felt like calling them and asking them if they have any idea of what they are talking about.

    The other point people have made about companies not willing to hire smart motivated people who will learn, but must have 110% of experience in all of the criteria is also true. When I started out, I taught myself analog and digital electronics though I had exposure to analog growing up. Then assembly language programming. Then dreamed up applications for digital technology. I applied for a job as a buyer/planner for a well funded startup (1981), but they gave me a test on hardware, schematics, and logic diagrams which I passed with flying colors. Then they hired me as a Jr tech and I worked in R&D for 4 years where we invented data over cable TV infrastructure, VOIP, remote power meters, and telecom switching technologies inCupertino. I was mentored by about 12 senior engineers and went on to head up CS / Field Engineering for my next company. Later I got into Product Management and was responsible for rolling out some products in the film/TV industry. I made a decent living and traveled the world for 25 years. Point is, I was hired for some knowledge and a lot of potential and they mentored me. If I had not gotten that first break in engineering, I would not have progressed in my tech career as I did. I don’t see that happening anymore.

    Regarding pay….I applied for a job to design and maintain a digital film / animation studio for Disney a 2 years ago during the worse part of the meltdown that had a criteria list that was 2 pages long. I was unfamiliar with 1 of the commercial data transfer applications they want to use, so the headhunter said “Maybe we should pitch you at $40/hr instead of the top $50/hr they’re offering. Design, budget, build, maintain a film studio, be on call 24/7, no benefits for $40/hr? That was a big cut in pay but I needed a job so tried out for it anyway. They interviewed 1 guy before me, and he got it. Now I do something where my tech knowledge helps but certainly doesn’t require the deep knowledge that I have about electronics, software, marketing, etc.

    It may be more rewarding in the long run for some to leave tech for other things. And believe me, many people have made that transition. I have a former tech salesperson friend who left the biz and is making over $200k/year after expenses in real estate. How many corporate tech people make over $200k?? I have learned that being a techie is not the only way to run your life.

    Just a few stories for people to think about. Meanwhile I think tech workers should form some kind of union to guarantee wages or something. Otherwise they’ll continue to bury most of you with HB1 visas from 3rd world countries,or export your job. A friend just quit a $400 million / year company after 10 years as Senior Software Dev Mgr….They’re moving Engineering to the Ukrane and team members are being sent there to train and transfer the knowledge. So much for any sense of community or patriotism.