The lack of skilled IT workers is hurting the deployment of emerging technology, according to a new survey from Gartner. In areas from cloud to cybersecurity, this crisis is expected to last for years to come.
Stories like his are increasingly familiar these days as people across a spectrum of jobs — poker players, bookkeepers, baristas are shedding their past for a future in the booming tech industry. The money sloshing around in technology is cascading beyond investors and entrepreneurs into the broader digital work force, especially to those who can write modern code, the language of the digital world. Digital Game Plan Internet giants like Google and Facebook have long fought over the top software engineers in the country, and that continues. But now, companies in most every industry, either by necessity or to follow the pack, are pursuing some sort of digital game plan — creating lucrative opportunities for computing minded newcomers who want to reboot their lives. “These are skilled and ambitious people who are seeking an onramp to the tech industry,” said Jim Deters, chief executive of Galvanize, the school that Mr. Minton attended. Whether the onramp proves to be a lasting pathway to high pay and stimulating work remains to be seen. The boom-to-bust cycles in the tech business can be wrenching, like the last downturn in the early 2000s after the dotcom bubble burst. Nearly everyone in the industry was hit. Yet software development and engineering jobs held up better than ones in finance, marketing, sales and administration. For now, at least, it is a seller’s market for those who can master new technology tools for lowering a business’s costs, reaching its customers and automating decision¬making — notably, cloud computing, mobile apps and data analytics. Companies cannot hire fast enough. Glassdoor, an employment site, lists more than 7,300 openings for software engineers, ahead of job openings for nurses, who are chronically in short supply. For the smaller category of data scientists, there are more than 1,200 job openings. Demand is highest in San Francisco. Nationally, the average base salary for software engineers is $100,000, and $112,000 for data scientists. House Initiative In March, the House announced an initiative, TechHire, to coordinate the efforts of the federal government, cities, corporations and schools to train workers for the thousands of current job openings in the tech sector. The Obama administration points to coding schools like Galvanize, Flatiron School and Hack Reactor, which offer accelerated training in digital skills as a way to “rapidly train workers for a well¬paying job.” The graduating classes of these coding schools support the trend. They will graduate about 16,000 students this year, more than double the 6,740 graduates last year, according to a survey published by Course Report in June. The 2015 total would be about one third of the estimated number of computer science graduates from American universities. The largest concentration of the schools, often called boot camps, is in San Francisco, which has 12, followed by New York, with nine, and Seattle, eight. Students are of a wide age range, but most are in their 20s and 30s. The typical student is a “29 year old career changer,” said Liz Eggleston, cofounder of Course Report, which tracks these schools. Past shifts and surges in the information technology industry — the early Internet boom in the 1990s, the personal computer revolution in the 1970s and 1980s, and the minicomputer and mainframe eras before — have often opened doors to job seekers of diverse backgrounds. One sure way to fill job openings in technology these days would be to attract more women. Only 18 percent of computer science graduates at fouryear universities were women in 2013, the most recent statistic. By contrast, 35 percent of students at the specialized coding schools are women. Graduation Here Is You Get a Job Savannah Worth majored in English and graduated last year from Colorado College. She signed up for the Galvanize 24 week web programming class and excelled. Shortly after completing the course, she was hired by IBM as a software developer in San Francisco. She helps IBM’s corporate clients design and build web and mobile applications that run in remote cloud data centers, and she earns a six figure salary. Galvanize’s 24 week web programming course is one of the largest among the coding schools. The average class length among the schools is just under 11 weeks, and costs $11,000. Galvanize’s web programming course is also among the most expensive, at $21,000. The company offers scholarships and deferred payment plans, and has partnerships with online lenders like LendLayer and Earnest. The job placement rate for Galvanize students is 98 percent. “Graduation here is you get a job,” Mr. Deters said. Employers are recruiting for immediate needs, but with the future in mind. “What we hire for is the ability to learn,” said Rachel Reinitz, an IBM distinguished engineer, “The technology changes so fast.”Galvanize is selective, accepting about 20 percent of applicants. The vast majority are college graduates, but there are exceptions like Reyna DeLoge who logged long hours in part-time jobs throughout high school. She went to Montana State University, but dropped out after a year, uninspired and in debt. and worked for years mostly as a barista and assistant manager. She moved to Denver, and a year ago, got a job at the coffee shop in the Galvanize building there. She found the environs, bustling with aspiring coders and fledgling start-ups, appealing and applied to the webprogramming course and was accepted. To help pay for the course, Reyna got a $5,000 scholarship and a nointerest loan from Galvanize. She graduated last month, immediately received a few job offers and decided to take one from Galvanize, as a teaching assistant and mentor to new students. In the past, Ms. DeLoge never made as much as $30,000 a year. Her salary now is nearly $80,000.