The world of information technology has been completely transformed in the last 10 years, and high-demand skills sets have also been on the move.
Mainframes have given way to the world of client/server, and this is now being transformed, according to one analyst, into a world of pervasive cyber-smart computing. As the information systems we rely on continue to change, so will the required skills.
“The entire way we use computers is going to be very different in 2005, and that’s going to translate into very different skills set in different types of jobs that are going to be available in 2005. We have to know where we’re going in order to build the kinds of skills that we’re going to need,” said International Data Corp. (Canada) Ltd. skill research manager Julie Kaufman in Toronto.
She believes that we are about to enter an era in which people will be able to access information whenever they want from wherever they want.
The kinds of skills that are going to be required in this highly-connected world are in areas such as component construction, data warehousing and data mining. As well, people who can provide data access middleware, object middleware and network management types of solutions are going to be needed in 2005, Kaufman predicted.
“A lot of our business is going to be done electronically. A lot of advantage is going to come from knowledge management – being able to distribute information to the right types of people at the right time in the way they need to see it,” she said.
E-commerce-savvy personnel will also be required, Kaufman said.
According to Mary Rother, vice-president of operations at the Branham Group, a marketing and management consulting firm in Ottawa, “anything to do with the Internet, e-commerce and back-end connections” is growing.
As a result of the growing reliance on the Internet and e-business, networking and telecommunications technology will continue to increase.
“Everyone is becoming networked. There’s a peak in the network era right now. People are talking about a LAN in their own home. Someone’s got to maintain those. Most small companies don’t have the skills to do that. They’re going to be looking for service companies,” said Information Technology Association of Canada president and CEO Gaylen Duncan in Toronto.
He believes that wireless technology will become increasingly important and the skills needed to design, manufacture and program wireless devices will be in high demand.
“In some ways it’s taking us back deeper into the engineering world than we’ve been for the last little while,” Duncan said.
The need for programmers and solution providers in client/server technology will start to decline, Rother said. But the demand for Java technology and C++ programming will continue to rise.
There will also be a push to re-purpose and retrofit the vast stores of information and knowledge that we’ve amassed for Internet-based technologies, she said.
And as technologies improve and issues of bandwidth present less of a hindrance, there will be a lot more video-based and multimedia services available over the ‘net, said Software Human Resource Council chair Ken Chapman, ISP, in Calgary.
“We’re going to hear more words like ‘producer’ instead of ‘programmer,'” Duncan agreed. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the multimedia world, the concept of project manager gets converted into director.”
On the less technical side, this will mean an increasing demand for content producers, Duncan added.
Jobs that are not currently considered IT jobs will become more and more technical as the pervasiveness of technology continues to grow. Just as graphic designers and engineers can’t survive today if they are not computer literate, this will be true of even more jobs in the future, Chapman said. This will mean the line between what is and isn’t considered a tech job will become a rather blurry one.
But whatever the future may hold, the only guarantee is that it will be different. The only way to keep apace of the change is to make sure you understand the basics, Duncan said.
“If you’ve got a good grounding in the fundamentals of computation and telecommunications and content production, then it’s easy to pick up the next step of hot skills. So, don’t go specializing in skills development before you’ve done the educational side,” he said.
Companies also need to start thinking about the changing skills they will need in 2005 today if they are going to be able to meet demands, Kaufman said.
“There’s a skills shortage now. I don’t see a short-term solution for that. The computing environment is going to be really different five years from now and IT and HR managers need to look that far out in order to build the skills to reach that.”