Wireless skills and the firms that need them

IT skills related to wireless technology will increase the most in importance in the next five years, according to a survey of more than 3,500 IT managers in 14 countries, including Canada.

The finding ranks IT skills in wireless ahead of all other skills, including Web-based technologies such as Web 2.0 and security, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association in Oakbrook Terrance, Ill., which commissioned the survey.

CompTIA hired the Center for Strategy Research Inc., to conduct online and telephone interviews of at least 250 IT managers in each of 14 countries. Interviews were conducted last fall and announced Monday.

In all but two of the 14 countries involved, IT managers said wireless skills will increase the most in importance. In France and South Africa, wireless skills were ranked second to Web-based technologies and security, consecutively. Wireless technology skills were deemed most important in the health care and education sectors, ahead of retail, financial services and manufacturing, among others, but were still high among the other sectors, said CompTIA spokesman Steven Ostrowski in an interview.

“The real eye opener in the survey was how wireless skills would be important across all geographies and industries,” Ostrowski said. Ostrowski said the findings are a warning to educational institutions to prepare IT graduates with coursework in wireless topics, including standards, software and hardware. CompTIA realizes that there is not an “IT wireless specialist” job title, but there might become one, Ostrowski noted. Networking and telecommunications specialists all have shared duties with wireless.

Gene Gretzer, a project manager for application integration at St. Luke’s Health System in Houston, said that knowledge of wireless technologies, including devices, is “absolutely in demand” for IT openings in all kinds of industries. While St. Luke’s has a hiring freeze until June, future jobs will undoubtedly require skills in wireless, he said.

Still, Gretzer said he doesn’t see a specialty for wireless skills developing in the near term, but said IT managers will generally want a “well-rounded IT individual” to handle all kinds of networks and to be able to troubleshoot such problems as wireless interference in a network. As for knowledge of specific wireless hardware platforms, such as the iPhone, he said IT specialists need to show “intuitiveness” and have the willingness and ability to absorb information on new gadgets as they hit the market. “You need a quick learner,” he said.

For example, doctors coming to St. Luke’s are asking to use the iPhone, and Gretzer said those devices will get supported by the hospital eventually, which will require on-staff help. For now, the health system wants a standard browser, not Apple Inc.’s Safari browser, to endorse iPhone’s use, Gretzer said. But many other handhelds are supported, and new models are emerging all the time that will require support, he noted. “Wireless is going to be everywhere,” he said, pointing to Houston’s plans for a municipal Wi-Fi-type rollout among them.

The countries in the survey were Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

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