Why is there a lack of Qualified IT Programmers in the US?

This is a question that I find myself asking quite often as a professional in the IT recruiting industry. IT staffing companies in Boston and around the nation receive daily requests for application developers.  With this kind of demand, you’d think that everyone would be jumping on the bandwagon. (This would be similar to the buzz when the demand for qualified Pharmacists went through the roof a few years back. The demand for Pharmacists led to a huge influx of pharmacy students and a growing number of academic institutions. The US went from having approximately 50-60 pharmacy schools fifteen years ago to well over a 100 today!)

The Information Technology industry is not doing enough to create the same buzz regarding the demand for highly skilled Developers.  The Tech industry should be inspiring academic institutions to provide top notch Software Engineering curriculum (again, being a veteran in the technical recruiting industry, I assure you that the need is there). You hear much more in the media about Business, Medical, Liberal Arts and other programs than you hear about Computer Science programs.  Why is this?  It could be that the role of a Programmer does not have the same visibility that positions like Sales or Marketing provide.  Roles in the Tech field may also be considered ‘behind the scenes’ and thus much less glamorous and desirable.  This is certainly not the case. Rarely do hiring managers request a Programmer that will sit at a desk and code all day.  More and more, IT managers are looking for candidates that have the right mix of interpersonal and technical skills.  Hiring managers need candidates who will thrive in a collaborative environment and be able to work with business stakeholders when needed.

It’s ironic that even though there are so many articles written every year discussing how Software Engineers and other Application Developers are among the highest paid graduates, the demand is still there for these positions! Subsequently, companies are forced to off-shore and outsource U.S. jobs to countries like India, China, and the Philippines.  Or, employers will hire H1 Visa Software Developers to fill their needs locally.  H1 Visa IT consultants provide companies with software resources without having to hire full-time IT staff.  Many companies also prefer to hire H1-V consultants because they demand a lower salary for the same work output.

IT recruiting firms are also forced to source H1 Visa/sponsored programmers for the same reasons.  Firstly, there are a shortage of qualified US professionals to meet the hiring needs of their clients.  Secondly, especially in this economy, clients are seeking more for less.  Therefore, with budgets slashed and money tight, the only way for many companies to meet their development needs is by hiring an H1 Visa Information Technology professional.

Currently the theoretical limit to H1-V programmers in the U.S. is approximately 65,000.  That said, most Americans would compete against foreign programmers willing to do the same IT job for less money.  However, when a hiring manager has the option to choose who they want to hire, based purely on skill set and experience, the U.S. programmer should have the edge. This is due to that fact that they do not require sponsorship to hire and, in most cases, have superior communication skills.  These kinds of skills are crucial to positions that are client-facing and involve customer contact.  However, the truth stands that many companies are simply forced to hire consultants when they have an open full-time IT Programmer position.  They are left with an extremely small number of candidates to choose from and have to settle for less experience or pay a consultant.

It truly is a shame that many companies in the Information Technology industry import highly skilled foreign workers to handle programming and other work due to the lack of talent in the US.  Proponents of more H1-V’s also say there is a shortage of computer professionals in the US.  This is reflected in a recent unemployment rate of a mere 2.4 percent.  Subsequently, there are plenty of job opportunities for American programmers.

American Computer Programmers are an endangered species in the US.  The number of Computer Science students has fallen by 50 percent for many schools since its peak in the 1990s.  Therefore, the first step towards improving these statistics is to obviously increase the number of Information Technology programs in academia.  The second step is to motivate more and more students towards a degree in Computer Science.  Lastly, there needs to be a shift in how society perceives IT programmers and developers.  They’re no longer the quiet people who get shoved in a corner to code all day long.  More and more Tech professionals are tasked with design, development, testing, project management and providing ultimately presentations to leadership.

Being an IT staffing company, we are constantly looking for U.S. Programmer candidates.  We speak with a lot of frustrated hiring managers who are having trouble finding local programming talent.  Therefore, if you’re a solid IT Programmer, then IT recruiting companies like AVID Technical Resources should be making your phone ring off the hook!

Are you searching for a new IT job?  Check out our open jobs here or submit your resume here or find AVID IT recruiters near you here.


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AVID (Applications, Voice, Internet, Data) Technical Resources is a leading Information Technology recruiting company. Specializing in placing contract and permanent personnel in both Infrastructure Support and Applications Development positions, AVID has a national presence supporting clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies. Headquartered in Boston, MA, AVID has achieved tremendous growth since the firm's inception in 2003. This has triggered numerous national awards and recognition, such as being named to Inc. 500 Magazine's list of 5,000 Fastest Growing Privately-held Companies in the US in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Additionally, the firm boasts of having more than 100 five-star reviews on Google from clients and candidates who rave about their experience and interaction with the firm's recruiters.