Are Insurers Ready for Renewed IT Skills Crunch?
Insurance Experts' Forum, May 26, 2011
A reviving economy is always good news for everyone, but there is one downside: the talented people needed to guide companies up into the new boom markets become scarcer and more expensive. This is especially the case with information technology professionals, at a time when IT is seen as the catalytic force that will open opportunities in the years to come.
But already, in many states across the country, there are far more IT job openings than there are graduates. Dice.com, the online IT job search site, just published a new report on available jobs, and finds far more job openings than applicants to fill them. Dice reports a 60% jump in IT job openings from the worst of the recession about two years ago.
For the IT-intensive insurance industry, this creates new challenges, with many current and potential IT professional being lured to startups, entrepreneurial firms, or firms with “cool” reputations, such as Google, Facebook, or Amazon. The mobile-cloud-social space is gobbling up more talent than is available across the land.
Indeed, entrepreneurial ventures have a lot of appeal to some IT professionals over conventional 9-to-5 jobs. As one developer put it: “Why take a traditional job when I can develop this app for Android and sit here in my house and collect a dollar from 250,000 people a year?”
Consider the IT job market in California, home of the Silicon Valley. There, the Dice analysis shows nearly three jobs open for every new computer science graduate. Andres Castañeda, director of recruiting for Pasadena-headquartered IdeaLab, puts it this way: “There’s really a shortage of people in the Bay Area and that’s such a hub for high tech. We see a lot of poaching there. … Unless a company has a ‘do not touch’ policy, everybody’s fair game.”
Even “distressed” areas with high unemployment rates are seeing hiring booms in the IT field, Dice reports. Tech job openings in Detroit are up 82%, and up 22% in Pittsburgh.
Dice cites the specific top skills in demand (most requested):
3. C, C++, C#
4. Project Management
And the skills with the fastest-growing demand from a year ago:
1. Android (302%)
2. Cloud (221%)
3. iPhone (220%)
5. PeopleSoft (83%)
For insurance companies, the ability to bring in and keep IT talent is going to get a whole lot more challenging. Insurers will need to not only proactively market themselves as great places to work, but also offer open, flexible working arrangements, perhaps with compensation tied to performance. And, there's the matter of committing professionals to patching 20-year-old mainframe programs versus writing mobile apps, or working off the cloud.
A couple of years ago, the scramble was on to try to keep budgets intact to avoid layoffs among IT staff. Now, the scramble begins to hang on to this talent.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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