Defence, tech firms need skilled help: Report

Technology and defence firms are hanging out the Help Wanted sign, but they’re still having trouble filling openings for skilled workers.

Research released Monday revealed that U.S. technology and defense companies average 470 and 1,265 high-skilled job openings, respectively.

The numbers are a fraction of the 140,000 job openings for skilled positions available today among the 500 companies that comprise Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500.

The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) released Monday its findings from research performed mostly in January 2008, but also conducted in December 2007 and February 2008. The NFAP examined postings for available U.S.-based jobs that require at least an undergraduate or professional degree at the S&P 500. The NAFP — a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to public policy research on trade, immigration, education, and other issues of national importance — found that while demand for skilled workers permeated across the U.S., technology, defense and financial services companies appeared to be most in need of skilled workers.

According to the NAFP March 2008 brief Talent Search: Job openings and the need for skilled labor in the U.S. economy, Microsoft topped the list of S&P 500 companies with the most available positions with 4,005 job openings as of January 2008.

“Microsoft is an employer that is a critical part of the U.S. economy. It is a major innovation leader and has a corporate ethic to keep its development work largely in the U.S., but Microsoft has thousands of jobs it can’t fill because there aren’t enough U.S. workers with the skill sets its needs,” says Bo Cooper, a specialist in business immigration law in Paul Hastings’ national immigration practice.

Defense companies Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin both had more than 3,900 job openings listed. General Electric listed some 3,078 job openings, JPMorganChase had 2,164 open positions, and Cisco, more than 1,500 available jobs.

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“The demand for skilled labor is present throughout America’s diverse economy, although technology companies appear to endure more job openings than most others,” the report reads.

For instance, companies listed as members of the trade association TechNet such as Google, HP, CA, Cisco, Juniper, Sun and Amazon accounted for more than 18,816 job openings. Information Technology Industry Council members such as Accenture, AMD, EMC, Apple, IBM, Time Warner, Texas Instruments and Vonage had more than 21,972 available positions listed as of January 2008. And the American Electronics Association, which includes companies such as Adobe, BMC, Citrix, Symantec, Dell, eBay and Intel, also showed “an acute demand for labor,” according to the NAFP, with 12,784 job openings.

The S&P 500 employ about 14 per cent of the country’s workers, the NFAP reports, which indicates there are potentially thousands more open positions for skilled workers available. The report suggests a shortage of U.S. graduates in computer and science technology fields as a cause for the draught in American workers. Foreign nationals, or international students, account for a majority of the degrees awarded in high demand fields, NFAP says.

For instance, the report states that in 2006 “73 per cent of new electrical engineering Ph.D.s were granted to international students, as were 64 per cent of all engineering Ph.D.s awarded.” And the previous year, “foreign nationals received 55 per cent of electrical engineering degrees and 42 per cent of computer science master’s degrees.” The skills shortage trend within the U.S. will worsen when an estimated 78 million baby boomers begin to retire.

“U.S. companies lack access to the skilled professionals needed to grow and innovate inside the United States,” the NFAP report states. “Demand is most pronounced at technology and defense companies.”

The full NFAP report and listing of the S&P 500 companies and the number of job openings is available here

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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