In 2017, I made a bold statement: Software and IT jobs in the U.S. will double in 10 years. Three years later, we are ahead of pace. While Covid-19 slowed the pace, it did not derail the technology job growth. I am still confident we will see jobs double from the original date. I am also confident we will see IT and software jobs double from now in 10 years. The same reasons apply, and we have now added a few more that will accelerate things.
Each month, my company compiles an economic report based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. There were just under 4.7 million people working in IT and software in May 2017. Three years later in June of 2020, we had nearly 6 million. That is 100,000 jobs over the pace needed to double in 10 years.
Even With Covid-19
In normal times, the unemployment rate for IT and software workers averages 1.5 points lower than the national unemployment rate. When the U.S. unemployment rate was hovering around 4%, IT and software people saw theirs hover around 2.5%. Since Covid-19 began, the unemployment rate for IT and software people had its yearly high at 4.3%. The November 2020 rate was 2.4%. The IT/software segment has flipped back and forth with legal to have the lowest unemployment rate in the country.
There are two common ideas from recruiters across the country about who in IT lost their jobs — IT managers and people on a contract. Individuals with hands-on technical skills had much greater job security in 2020.
2021 Will Be A Boom Year
It is hard to read any technology magazine or McKinsey report that does not make a reference to digital transformation. When the C-suites are inundated with the same piece of advice, they do move in the same direction. A big message from 2020 to the C-suites in America was to embrace digital transformation or get left behind. But how is this going to play out to network engineers and software developers?
I believe big consulting firms are going to have a good year. They will be asked to bid on several DT projects. They need to hire hands-on technical people to work on these projects. Not every company feels the need to bring in Deloitte or Accenture. This does not mean they are going to ignore their own DT projects. Demand for people to do all the digital transformation work is going to be high.
What are the key skills for digital transformation projects? Agile, API programming, cybersecurity, cloud-related skills, DevOps, UI/UX/CX, IoT, big data, data science and ML/AI. In other words, many of the same skills that people already have are listed here, but they’re used in slightly different ways.
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All The Original Reasons IT Jobs Will Double
Consider one sliver of the IT landscape — IoT devices. IDC says we will have 80 billion IoT devices by 2025. We have close to 5.8 enterprise IoT endpoints in 2020. For every IoT device out there, we need to do the following:
- Write the embedded code.
- Secure and authenticate the devices.
- Write the API the device calls.
- Secure and authenticate the API.
- Build the network to carry stream data.
- Store the data in a database.
- Set up the servers and the cloud to house these databases.
- Employ a data scientist to make sense of the data.
- Use AI/ML to assist the data scientist.
- Implement multiple user interfaces to have the data make sense.
IoT devices tend to stream data, not send occasional updates. There is an incredible amount of work to be done to accommodate the additional devices coming in the next five years. If that seems like a lot to do, we still have all the work related to machine learning, 5G, mobilizing apps, big data and new projects with low-code/no-code. Then there is all the regular programming and network things we need to do.
How Does This Affect My Company?
The competition for existing top technical workers will increase. Posting an ad on a job board is not going to be enough to get experienced people. Companies will need to market and recruit for technical talent differently and more aggressively.
Where are the people to fill these jobs going to come from? Colleges and universities are creating new graduates in the hundreds, while businesses are demanding in the thousands. Bootcamps, online certifications and continuing education programs will be a big source of education for the new talent. Companies should consider a pipeline of these individuals. Consider reaching out to a local coding boot camp or a university extension that trains people interested in cybersecurity. Share with them your long-term plans for hiring and the technologies you use. Smart companies can get these programs to train potential employees in the technology they use.
It is a very good time to start a career in software development or information technology. The doors are open for more people. When companies are building plans for how to find talent, you want to be in that talent pool.
This article was originally published at Forbes.com