The pandemic, which forced businesses to switch to online everything, appears to have amplified demand for technology workers.
Last month, employers posted more than 365,000 job openings for IT positions, with software developers, IT support specialists, systems engineers and architects among the most coveted workers by employers.
There is so much demand that the balance of power has shifted in favor of experienced engineers, who are being treated like celebrities and report having to choose between multiple job offers.
Now, to win over a top engineer, companies are offering things like flexible hours, sign-on bonuses and permanent remote work. And employers are using "exploding offers" that self-detonate at a set date and time to force an immediate decision.
Q. Competition for tech talent is fierce. Is the trend temporary?
Gary London, London Moeder Advisors
YES: Many factors contribute to deficiencies in talent, but most will be cured over time. Critically, the feeder system has broken down. Our education system must assume the task of readying candidates, as should the companies themselves. Notably, foreigners migrating to the U.S. have historically filled deficiencies, but the absurdly restrictive Trump-era policies, coupled with COVID-related travel bans, have reduced migration. It is worth noting that San Diego has benefited more than other regions from this competition.
Alan Gin, University of San Diego
NO: Technology will play an increasingly important role in peoples' lives, and that will keep the competition for tech talent high. The ability to work remotely has made the labor market for many workers, particularly those in technology, a national one as opposed to a regional one, which further increases the competition for those workers. This makes it imperative to deal with the STEM divide, where poorer education in those areas threatens to leave some people behind and worsen income inequality.
Austin Neudecker, Weave Growth
NO: As new technologies permeate all aspects of our lives, the need for advanced workers accelerates. While technical college graduates and training programs increase, they continue to be outpaced by global demand. As such, in-demand workers will command additional salary and benefits. Regions that efficiently produce or attract highly trained workers will fare best in the coming decades.
James Hamilton, UC San Diego
NO: The trend favoring tech-savvy workers has been very clear for some time. What often happens during a recession is that there is a sharp step that we later recognize as part of a longer-term trend. This could be a good time for some people to consider a career move. For young people, the advice is always to find something you like to do that fills an important need, and get the skills to do it well.
Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health
YES: Fortunately, the trend toward more virtual work because of COVID showed just how manageable this arrangement is. It makes sense that more people in tech want to work remotely; it's a field that's highly conducive to that. So, if tech employers are willing to let potential employees work from home, that could make recruitment easier. Here at Scripps, we now have employees working from several states.
Norm Miller, University of San Diego
YES: All "fierce" trends are temporary. We have had an engineering shortage for years but the current tech surge is due, in part, to strong investor appetites for startups and all things tech including a wave of machine-learning apps, using new sources of data for real-time decision making. Some will be wildly successful. Most will not. We are in 1998 again with a dot.com bomb looming and yet until that bust occurs, tech demand will be fierce.
Jamie Moraga, IntelliSolutions
YES: It's difficult to recruit and retain high-skilled tech talent right now due to increased demand. Workers can be more selective, or job hop to better offers as more companies around the country (or around the globe) are offering remote work opportunities, higher salaries and benefits, and more "incentives," which can put local or small businesses at a disadvantage. Like anything, this will not always be the case. The pendulum will eventually swing back as the market adjusts, more qualified workers decide to re-enter the job market, or companies decide to shift back to the office and away from remote work.
David Ely, San Diego State University
NO: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in computer and information technology occupations will grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. BLS also projects that the occupations of computer and information research scientists and information security analysts will experience even faster growth. With strong demand for tech talent over the next decade, employers will be under pressure to offer more attractive compensation and employment terms.
Ray Major, SANDAG
NO: This trend will be with us for the foreseeable future. As the economy continues to advance and become more technology-driven, the demand for technical positions will continue to outpace the supply of technically proficient candidates in innovative areas like drone technology robotics, AI and biotech. Talented employees will write their own tickets as employers roll out creative offers, perks, and signing or retention bonuses to lure the best candidates.
Lynn Reaser, Point Loma Nazarene University
NO: At least for some time, competition for various IT specialist categories will remain intense. Demand will continue to climb as more advanced technology extends through all economic segments and aspects of society. As awareness of the opportunities grows, more people will pursue technology degrees and schools will expand their programs. This will take time. In the near term, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills remain subpar and foreign visa restrictions will limit international talent sources.
Kelly Cunningham, San Diego Institute for Economic Research
NO: At least for the foreseeable future, demand for engineering jobs and wage growth will be much stronger than average. Unlike other job sectors, engineering jobs were barely impacted by the pandemic shutdown, and have since more than rebounded to record levels. Engineering jobs in San Diego are anticipated to grow twice as fast the next ten years as other jobs, with wages more than double the countywide median according to California Employment Development Department projections.
Phil Blair, Manpower
YES: Talent at any level will always be as a result of supply and demand. Hot new skills that few people have will drive salaries up dramatically. Even causing bidding wars. It doesn't matter if it is white-collar or blue-collar, or anything in between. Our obligation to ourselves is that we keep our skills and talents up to the highest standards we can. This usually involves lifelong learning in every occupation.©2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit sandiegouniontribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.