Organizations have to

Organizations will have to train their own staff rather than hire outsiders to meet the anticipated shortage of skilled network specialists, according to an industry analyst.

“You can’t hire your way out of a staff shortage,” Cushing Anderson warned Monday on the release of an IDC study forecasting a North American shortage of 60,000 network staffers over the next four years. Nor, he said, can you buy them with better salaries.

“What you can do is develop talent.” IT and network managers should leverage vendor and industry training programs to train willing employees. Some, who hold IT-related jobs, already show an affinity for technology, he noted.

“Organizations need to find pools of talent that are under-utilized” – for example, IT support staff, where there’s no shortage of workers – “and try to grow them into those [needed] roles.”

Cushing was co-author of the report, which sees organizations facing shortages of people with network security, IP telephony and wireless networking expertise.

The figures themselves are no surprise – industry analysts have been talking about IT job shortages in Canada and the U.S. for at least the last decade as PC and Internet use exploded. “This was not a huge revelation to me that this was going to happen,” Cushing admitted about the figures in the study.

IDC’s latest take was based on over 500 interviews with IT professionals in the two countries as well as a look at its own data and labour figures in Canada and the U.S.

It took about 600,000 IT workers to install, configure, manage and secure North American networks last year, the research company calculated. Over the next four years another 180,000 will be needed, based on the expected growth of network devices. However, there are more job openings than there is a supply of experienced professionals – roughly eight per cent of the total demand for networking staffers.

In the two countries about 10 per cent of open networking positions remain unfilled for more than six months, the report says. Yet 73 per cent of survey respondents expect to need staffers with new or extra security skills, 59 per cent say they’ll need people with wireless networking skills and 57 per cent expect to need people with IP telephony skills. Because network security expertise is in such demand, the gap between those wanted and those with the skills is slim today. But by 2011 it could reach 12 per cent. The gap for VoIP experts could reach 20 per cent. There will be a demand for nearly 45,000 IT professionals with wireless networking skills in the two countries. Only 28,000 will be available.

Organizations can take a number of strategies, the report said, ranging from job sharing to outsourcing. Vendors may help by making routers and switches that automatically configure themselves, Cushing said, but IDC figures that won’t happen fast enough to affect the forecast. But it notes that some 72 per cent of respondents plan to retrain existing staff.

Cushing also said that it may not be important that employees take a certification program exam. What’s important is that they be well-trained on the technology needed.

The study was paid for by Cisco Systems’ training division.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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