Why is the tech sector such a hard sell with potential employees? - Metro US

Why is the tech sector such a hard sell with potential employees?

In a tough economy, even tech firms like Sony, Panasonic, Microsoft and Intel are trimming jobs.

Outsourcing of tech jobs remains a reality, but compared to many other sectors, tech sees more growth and lower unemployment.

It’s not hard to come up with a list of two dozen Ottawa tech firms that expect to grow in 2009, including Grantium, BelAir, Abbott, Mosaid and QNX.

Young people are staying away from computer-related school courses in droves. Their perception is that tech is a dead sector.

But in Canada, IT employs close to 600,000, nearly triple the auto industry. In both Canada and the U.S., there are campaigns trying to promote tech careers, but it’s a tough road.

Started in late 2007, the Canada Coalition for Tomorrow’s IT Skills includes a powerhouse lineup of firms, yet they’ve failed to put the issue on the national agenda.

In a few months, they’re supposed to release a survey on what high school students think about tech and then in the fall, run a week of events aimed at attracting young people.

In the U.S., a similar group called Tapping America’s Potential admits that after three years of work they’ve failed to reach their goals.

Some recent reports on the issue provide interesting reading.

• The U.S. Labor Department notes the national unemployment rate is topping seven per cent, but in many tech areas unemployment ranges from two to four per cent.

• The Branham Group is Ottawa-based and tracks tech. CEO Wayne Gudbranson says many tech firms are still growing at a double-digit pace.

• Computer Economics (CE) consulting released a report last week predicting IT salaries in the U.S. will rise two per cent in 2009. CE also predicts that companies laying off staff will keep IT people and use technology to help the staff who remain.

• Dice, a tech career site, surveyed 19,000 workers late last year and reported an average IT pay hike over four per cent.

• Canada’s Information and Technology Council reports IT will need 15,000 to 22,000 workers each year for the next several years and we won’t have enough people with the needed technical and non-technical skills.

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