CIOs gathered for an annual Candle Corp. user conference, in Pebble Beach, Calif., last week bemoaned the persistent shortage of IT talent despite the lingering downturn in the economy.

Royce Green, CIO at Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc., said there would always be a lack of the “right” talent for IT because technology needs constantly shift and integration issues mean that multiple talents are needed to work on heterogeneous systems.

Green said it costs his company up to 150 per cent of outgoing IT staff members’ salaries to replace them. Retention is a “major concern,” he said.

Some industries have been hit harder than others, users said here. For example, Kerry Kerlin, CIO at Saint Vincent Health System in Erie, Pa., said the nonprofit health care company’s IT operation is under the legislative gun to comply with new privacy legislation while competing for scarce qualified staff.

“We’re being asked to do more with less,” he said.

Green added that CIOs could alleviate some of the problem by outsourcing.

However, according to Candle CEO Aubrey Chernick, outsourcing partners can add even more complexity to IT operations because “you add cultural complexity along with your existing technology complexity.”