Technology Jobs Are Here To Stay
With some companies outsourcing jobs overseas, does that mean people with technology-related degrees are in less demand? Not in the least. In fact, the opposite is true. People with strong technology skills continue to be extremely valuable to corporate America and will become increasingly important in maintaining our country’s competitive edge in years to come. Just ask Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who has been touring college campuses around the country recently, encouraging young people to pursue technology-oriented degrees. When asked by Time Magazine what effect outsourcing would have on the technology job market Gates replied: "The kind of top-notch skills that the U.S. universities create will always be in demand. The challenge for the U.S. is to have an ever higher percentage of its workforce have these incredibly world-class skills."
Innovation has long been this country’s economic engine, fueling the emergence and growth of many of the world’s most prominent companies. At the root of innovation is education. To remain competitive in this global marketplace we must continue to produce a workforce with the knowledge to stimulate future technological development. Take biomedical technology, for example, which includes the many uses of technology for health care applications, such as medical devices, bioinformatics and patient record management. It’s an emerging industry that’s poised for explosive growth. Who will support that growth? It will likely be Americans—those trained and educated in American schools.
Opportunity for people with an aptitude for technology is not just limited to technology companies. The largest employers of information technology workers in the United States are non-IT (information technology) companies. More traditional industries have increased their reliance on technology in recent years, creating a need for skilled employees to support those operations.
DeVry Institute of Technology, which offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in technology, business and management, has been seeing this demand first hand, even after the dot-com bust and during the recent recession. In the past five years (October 1998 to June 2003), nearly 90 percent of U.S. DeVry graduates who actively pursued employment or who were already employed when they graduated, held positions in their chosen fields within six months of graduation.
DeVry graduates are working in a range of industries, including health care, pharmaceutical, government, insurance, consumer electronics manufacturing, and equipment and service providers, among others. Many of them are in positions that involve conducting systems analysis—looking at a business problem and solving it through a particular application. Others handle systems integration, linking various technology platforms within companies or between businesses that have merged. Still others are involved in field installations and troubleshooting hardware. In these jobs there’s little risk of being "offshored"—all of the work must be done onsite.
Demand in these fields is going to continue, and if anything, increase. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said in February that it projects three of the 10 fast growing professions from 2002 to 2012 to be technology-related. They include network systems and data analysts, computer application software engineers and computer systems software engineers.
Forrester Research estimates that 60 percent of Fortune 1,000 firms have yet to adopt outsourcing and only five to 10 percent consider it key to their business. Even if technology outsourcing spreads more widely, it is unlikely to impact the majority of American employers, many of which will not consider it a viable option. Government agencies, for example, are less likely to outsource. Non-profit hospitals and other organizations that are closely tied to communities will face tremendous pressure to retain jobs. And smaller businesses are less likely to follow the lead of large global corporations that have outsourced technology functions. It’s also worth noting that some major employers have already brought back jobs they previously outsourced.
Though its impact on the outlook for technology professionals may be overblown, outsourcing is an obvious reality. In fact, it’s a reality that has existed for several decades, particularly in the manufacturing industry, which has long embraced the process. What history has shown is that at times when competition for jobs is most fierce, whatever the cause, the importance of having a strong educational background and high quality skills that can be applied in a variety of ways and across industries is paramount. Technology provides that edge.
Diane Engelhart is president of DeVry Institute of Technology in Long Island City.