To be honest, there is no easy solution to the talent drain we are facing in the next 10 to 12 years. That is in part because companies have found more efficient ways to do the work with the current staffing levels. For example, 8 to 10 years ago a single infrastructure engineer would support 25 to 30 physical servers, and now with a highly virtualized environment that same server engineer can support 100 to 250 servers. Additionally, the people currently in the jobs are clinging on to them until they retire.
But ponder this scenario; you work for a fortune 250 company and over half of your IT staff (developers, infrastructure engineers, DBAs, IT leadership) will be gone in 12 to 15 years.
So what to do? I think it is imperative that companies get directly involved in their local schools. We need to sponsor technology initiatives at both the high school and college level, and start advocating the opportunities that will be available in the near future. I have been working with Worcester Technical High School. They have a fantastic program teaching inner-city kids technology as a trade. They teach computer support, networking, development, database concepts, and of course my favorite subject virtualization. Here is their mission statement:
The mission of the Information Technology and Business Services Academy is to educate through applied technical and academics, future leaders in Business and Information industries.
Students will have the opportunity to:
- Earn national and state certificates while in high school in different Business and Information environments.
- Use applied methods and state of the art technology competeyncies. Participate in challenging academic and technical programs leading to higher education.
- Experience internships and on-the-job training with Business and Information employers.
- Earn college credit while in high school through articulation agreements with two– and four-year colleges.
- Enter well– and high– paying careers in skilled positions.
The vision of the Information Technology & Business Services Academy is to provide students with a dynamic, technical, and academic education of world-class standards and specific occupational proficiencies.
The students enrolled in the Information Technology and Business Services program at Worcester Technical High School provide the IT support for the students and facility. They get hands on experience of supporting the environment while earning their degree and certifications.
Institutions like Worcester Technical High School need businesses in their local communities to help shape their programs. Technology moves at such a rapid pace, it is hard for schools to keep pace with such anemic budgets. Technology leaders like Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, Cisco, and EMC need to provide equipment and licenses to schools that are trying to foster our IT future. I am not talking about an academic discount, they need to give them the equipment and licenses. Moreover, they should be providing the teachers with technical training and the same consulting they provide fortune 250 companies.
Local businesses need to be involved with cultivating young adults in the soft-skills needed to be successful in a corporate environment. They should be talking to students in the classroom and provide internships. This isn't just philanthropy, companies need to do this for self-preservation of their IT programs.
Even with this outreach there are significant hurdles. Most colleges and high schools don't offer education on legacy systems. You aren't going to find a student that has been trained in CICS, Cobol, or other mainframe skills.
The disaster that companies should be planning for isn't the destruction of their datacenters due to hurricanes, tornados, floods, or a meteor strike. The real disaster, that has significant consequences, is the talent drain staring us in the face and not many IT leaders have a good solution.