Is An IT Career Looking Better for Students?
February 11, 2008 Dan Burger
The perception of the value of beginning a career in the IT industry has taken a dive. To use a technical term in the computer business, it’s in the toilet. It’s no coincidence that the number of graduates with computer science degrees is down 32 percent in 2007, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. The source of those statistics, however, also reveals that the number of job openings for IT professionals increased 50 percent in the past two years, leading to some optimism that the IT job market is rebounding.
At a meeting in Las Vegas at the end of January, Jack Braman, the chief information officer at the Las Vegas Sands–a hotel, gaming, and resort heavyweight–told his audience of more than 100 high school IT teachers and guidance counselors that his company has 50 IT jobs that need to be filled. In another six months, he said, there’ll be 40 more.
Is this a blip on the radar screen or the beginning of a resurgence in IT career opportunities?
Braman and several other speakers, including Kevin Faughnan, the director of IBM‘s Academic Initiative program, were on a mission to inform those teachers and counselors that the future for IT professionals is as bright as the lights on the Las Vegas Strip.
The educators and advisors are influential in forming the perceptions shared by high school students looking to make career choices. They represented the Clark County School District, the only public school district in the metropolitan Las Vegas area.
The presentation they heard focused on jobs and the skills that job market newbies need to compete for those jobs. Braman’s comments were backed up by another casino executive, Tim Stanley, the CIO at Harrah’s Entertainment. Both have been instrumental in working with the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) to develop programs that can deliver MIS graduates with the skills that will get them jobs right out of college.
Their message was that the Las Vegas economy is driven by the hotels and casinos and that business is driven by IT. That is not an obvious fact to the young observer who is thinking about career options in Las Vegas. It would appear that the role of IT will become much more obvious in the coming months and years. It’s probably not lost on most readers of this newsletter that more than 70 percent of the hospitality and gaming business there runs on System i. That’s hardly a secret.
So is the gaming and hospitality business in Las Vegas any kind of indicator of a larger trend?
Yes, says Linda Grigoleit, the Academic Initiative program manager for the System i line, who reiterated that IT runs entire businesses not only in Las Vegas, but everywhere else. “Globalization is changing the way we work,” she says. “For the United States to compete, we need our students to get the right IT skills. This impacts our country and our economy.”
Grigoleit says this meeting had a general IT focus and was not designed to feature a particular product or technology, even though she represents the System i and the two customers that were prominently featured are System i customers. The academic network between System i shops and IBM partners has some history here and that became the foundation for this meeting. Two UNLV professors made presentations, including one that examined the impact of offshore outsourcing on IT.
Now that System i and System p are together in the Power Systems division within the Systems and Technology Group, Grigoleit says we should expect to see more collaborative efforts in the Academic Initiative. A System p Academic Initiative is just getting under way and more academic planning will be done with the System i, the System p, and the System z all on the same team.
“When you look at the components of the education, and what’s happening in the Systems Group, we all talk about the same concepts–virtualization, high availability, business resiliency, and security,” Grigoleit said. “Regardless of what brand you are talking about, the concepts are the same, even when the implementations may be different depending on the operating system.”