Thursday, May 3, 2012

Get IT – Education as the pathway to technology-focused employment
Education TodayHow to Get IT
By Jerry Masin

Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” In today’s economic environment – where businesses have learned to do more with fewer people, yet struggle to find qualified candidates for those positions that are open – seeking employment without proper education and training is vision without execution. Unemployment rates remain stagnant in part due to more job seekers reentering the job market as the economy continues to recover, yet less jobs available because many positions cut during the recession are gone forever as technology has spurred improvements in business processes. As columnist David Brooks recently said, “American skills have not kept up with technological change.”

Those Americans who have kept up are succeeding. While unemployment rates still remain above 8 percent, unemployment in the information technology sector consistently runs well below national levels, as low as 3.3 percent in June year when the national rate was 9.2 percent. And the news for the IT community, and those seeking employment in this sector, keeps getting better. After sitting on their cash for most of the recession businesses once again are investing in IT, on both the software and hardware sides. U.S. businesses are forecast to spend $551 billion on IT products and services in 2012, according to the “United States Information Technology Report Q1 2012” issued by Drivers of that investment include cloud computing, mobile applications, data center consolidation, product innovation such as tablets and netbooks and technology innovation such as GPS, the report said. Monster added government mandates such as those of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Because computers do not program themselves this increase in investment translates into demand for skilled IT workers. According to “Tech Hiring Trends 2012” issued by Acquity Group, there will be an increased demand for mobile application developers and data warehouse analysts this year. U.S. News and World Report lists software developer and database administrator as the second and fifth best jobs of 2012.

Yet not everyone gets IT. The Princeton Review showed that the 10 most popular college majors continue to include business administration and management/commerce (#1), psychology (#2), English language and literature (#6) and political science and government (#9).
At the same time 52 percent of U.S. businesses report having difficulty filling open positions, according to ManpowerGroup’s “2011 Talent Shortage Survey.” Only 14 percent of hiring managers reported that over the last three years “most” or “nearly all” job candidates had the skills their company looks for in a potential employee, according to a recent survey by the Career Advisory Board. Even in IT there is a shortage of necessary skills, with 93 percent of businesses reporting an overall skill gap among their IT staff, according to the “State of IT Skills” report by CompTIA.
Learning, Growth and Sustainable Employment In the new economy of the 21st century, economic vitality is the outcome of a three-part formula: learning, growth and sustainable employment. Through job-specific education and training workers become properly skilled, help businesses grow and remain employable.

So how does an unemployed or underemployed non-IT worker take advantage of this increasing demand for skilled IT employees? As Edison said, they need to execute a plan.
First, job-seekers must perform a skills assessment. A job search is a journey and just as a traveler begins a journey by assessing what he or she will need for the trip job-seekers must determine which skills they possess and lack. (Skill self-assessment tools are readily available online.)
For example, to succeed as an application developer or database developer workers require a basic understanding of computing, object-oriented concepts, relational databases and how to write code. Because much of this can be trained, job-seekers in this field also must possess discipline, organizational skills, a burning desire to learn and a burning desire to succeed. Job-seekers can also confer with a career coach to determine their best path. Any discussion about where a worker wants to go must include a discussion of where the jobs are. Next, the execution of a career change and new job search entails job-specific education and training that is holistic. Because past job training and business knowledge carry value, an effective IT training program must link past job experience with the new skills being learned. And finally the IT job search must include marketing – promoting the job-seeker with his or her new skills to prospective employers.

SetFocus, an information technology training school that trains applications developers, database developers and other Microsoft professionals, puts this three-pronged approach to the test. Before any training begins, students partake in skill assessments, which help them and their instructors identify their current skills, their strengths and their areas needing improvement. Past job experience and knowledge is heavily weighed. Armed with this blueprint of knowledge, a training plan is outlined and executed through a curriculum that is designed and periodically reviewed in partnership with IT hiring companies. This ensures that students complete the 13-week full-time or 30+-week part-time program possessing the necessary skills and education to make them marketable.
SetFocus’ marketing includes career development efforts through the school’s placement partners that connects graduates with businesses in a wide variety of sectors requiring highly skilled IT professionals. This thee-step formula of linking to past work experiences, building required skill sets and marketing to prospective employers allows graduates to maintain significant placement success. Most importantly, the holistic foundation of their training enables graduates to enjoy sustainable employment.

Education that Leads to Employment

Education and training is only relevant if it leads to sustainable employment. Education and training is the means; employment is the end. And for employment to be sustainable, it must bring value to the employer. The idea of hitting the ground running has never been more relevant than in today’s economy. Companies are no longer willing to invest in training for two or three years; they demand their employees be productive now. According to CompTIA, employers are more likely to outsource or hire new workers than invest in training for existing employees. In an era of high unemployment, many employers expect new employees to come prepared with the skills and training to be productive immediately, according to Brenda Gilchrist, principal and co-founder of the HR Matrix. For employment to be sustainable it must be valuable today and tomorrow. The best way to ensure that is through job-specific education and training. Information technology that drives nearly all business growth is taking a more prominent position in companies every day. Investment in IT will accelerate as technological innovation such as cloud computing and mobile applications advance exponentially. With this will come a greater need for IT professionals ready to step in and become productive immediately rather than lag behind a learning curve that is soaring skyward.

Now is the moment for those outside the information technology sector who are considering entering to take that step and redefine their careers with a properly executed plan for their future. Education is the pathway to technology-focused employment.

Learning, growth and sustainable employment – this is how to get IT.

Jerry Masin is president of SetFocus, an information technology training school headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey. He can be reached at 973.889.0211 or

Article appearing in the May 2012 issue of the New Jersey Technology Council's issue of TechWire.