For over a decade, both employers and economists have observed a persistent talent shortage in tech.
There are many more jobs calling for software skills than there are job seekers to fill them. This shortage has become more pronounced as more kinds of companies in more locations are in need of tech talent. How can we move beyond the skills shortage when employer demand continues to rise and candidates take the driver’s seat?
While employers are hiring all over the world, job seekers with software skills are mainly interested in a select number of tech hubs. Employers will need to craft creative strategies to attract job seekers to the cities where they’re needed while also offering greater flexibility and opportunity for this set of in-demand talent. As software itself becomes more capable, we can expect new job titles and skills to emerge. Finding holistic solutions to today’s skills gap will help employers overcome future challenges in tech hiring as well.
The ecosystem of technology jobs has rapidly expanded
In 1968, the NATO Science Committee held a conference on software engineering, a term that had recently been coined by Margaret Hamilton, a NASA mathematician who was working on the guidance software that a year later enabled Apollo 11 to land on the Moon. At the time, computers had only recently emerged from universities and laboratories but were quickly spreading to offices around the world. Computer science was not a formalized discipline and the more than 50 experts who gathered in Garmisch, Germany worried that current programming practices and languages would not scale well.
As one conference attendee observed, “In 1958, a European general purpose computer manufacturer often had fewer than 50 software programmers, now they probably number 1,000 – 2,000 people; what will be needed in 1978?” By 1978 in fact, microcomputers and personal workstations had appeared on the market, Apple and Microsoft were beginning to make their mark, and the context of software development had changed radically.
Today, companies of all kinds not only employ software programmers but also engineers, web developers, data scientists and many other types of specialized technical staff who all work with software. Computer programs that automate previously time consuming or even impossible tasks have spread to nearly every aspect of life and business, and with those capabilities has come an ever-expanding list of job titles.
Java is the most popular programming language worldwide. Here is a look at where jobs calling for that skill are concentrated.
What is the state of employment in these fields today?
The public discourse on the topic is dominated by the skills gap: there are many openings for specialized roles in technology and not enough people to fill them. While this gap stems from a general shortage of people with software and programming skills, there is also a mismatch between how people with those skills search and where employers are looking to hire.
From our analysis, one overwhelming trend unites these jobs: the people interested in using specialized software skills flock to a small number of tech hubs over other kinds of cities. In a tight labor market where candidates are in control, employers will need to go to these hubs rather than wait for talent to come to them. Job seekers may be attracted to living and working near people with similar skills and interests in metropolitan areas that offer many employment opportunities. In fact, it may be precisely because employers first clustered in some cities that drew job seekers, but now that talent has taken the driver’s seat, candidates’ interests are the greater force in the labor market.
Attracting tech talent will increasingly rely on job seekers’ preferences, including being in the locations that appeal to them most. This may mean setting up physical presences in these locations but could also mean that employers recruit in popular hubs despite their company’s base elsewhere, solving the talent gap by offering candidates the chance to work remotely. Flexibility is the hallmark of a talent-driven economy and one that’s particularly relevant for high-skill, in-demand workers. Moving forward, identifying opportunities based on how candidates search can help employers better navigate the skills gap and reach talent in spite of the shortage.