Linux Foundation survey shows companies desperate to hire open-source talent

Companies have long been hungry for open-source savvy employees, now they're starving.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

At the Open Source Summit in Seattle, The Linux Foundation, and edX, the leading massive open online course (MOOC) provider released the 2021 Open Source Jobs Report. In this survey of 200 technical hiring managers and 750 open-source pros, the organizations found more demand for top open-source workers than ever. On top of that, 92% of managers are having trouble finding enough talent and many of them are also having fits holding on to their existing senior open-source staffers.

In short, if you've got open-source skills, whether you're a developer, a sysadmin, a DevOps expert, or a cloud-native pro, there's a good-paying job waiting for you out there. And, where before the Covid-19 pandemic, you might have been stuck with only jobs in your area, these days, thanks to the rise of working from home, you can still live at the old homestead instead of moving to Silicon Valley or Manhattan. 

On top of this 50% of employers surveyed stated they are increasing hires this year. The jobs are out there. The difficulty for companies is, as 92% of managers report, finding enough talent and hanging onto existing talent in the face of fierce competition. 

This is especially true for cloud-native application development and operations skills. Cloud-native tops the list of skills needed with over 46% of hiring managers looking for people with Kubernetes smarts. Indeed, for the first time in the survey's history, cloud and container technology skills are more in demand by hiring managers than Linux. 

Also: Best cloud certifications 

Indeed, cloud and container skills rank far above Linux in this go around with 41% over 32%. That's a big reason why, according to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a Kubernetes expert in the US has risen to $147,732. That said, without Linux, neither the cloud nor containers would exist. Even on Microsoft Azure, Linux is now the top operating system

"Open source talent is in high demand, encouraging the most experienced pros to look for new opportunities while hiring managers battle it out for the most desirable candidates," said Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation Executive Director. "For those looking for the best career paths, it is evident that cloud-native computing, DevOps, Linux, and security hold the most promising opportunities."

Indeed, the survey also found that DevOps has become the standard method for developing software: Virtually all open-source professionals (88%) report using DevOps practices in their work, a 50% increase from three years ago. In other words, it's all DevOps all the time. 

It's not just edX and the Linux Foundation seeing the rise in open-source tech jobs. "Tech roles have the lowest supply of available talent of any occupation right now," said Jay Denton, chief analyst at ThinkWhy, an AI-driven talent solutions company. ThinkWhy has also found, "As of July, jobs in tech had a 1.5% unemployment rate, the lowest of any occupation." If this trend continues, the tech unemployment rate will reach an all-time low.

Johannes Heinlein, edX's Chief Commercial Officer and SVP of Strategic Partnerships added, "This year's report makes it clear that Covid-19 has only exacerbated skills gaps and hiring needs that were bubbling to the surface pre-pandemic, especially in the high technology sector." 

To meet this demand, Heinlein said, "It's promising to see in our findings that employers are meeting these needs by increasing training and learning opportunities. We need to empower organizations to invest in this type of training in order to meet the tech talent demands of today and tomorrow."

At the same time, many professionals are demanding more training opportunities from their employers. How many? 92% of managers are reporting an increase in training requests. Employers also report that they prioritize training investments to close skills gaps, with 58% using this tactic; by comparison, 29% bring in external consultants to close their skill gaps.

To further help with this, the Linux Foundation is offering more online classes and bootcamps than ever. The Linux Foundation is also adding classes in less technical, but still vital areas such as open-source management.

The survey also revealed that a majority of employers, 88%, now say that hiring certified professionals is a priority. That's an 87% increase in only three years, 57% in 2020, and 47% in 2018. A similar percentage of managers are also now willing to pay for employees to obtain certifications. The top Linux and open-source certifications include CompTIA Linux+; the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS); the Linux Foundation Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA); and Red Hat Certified System Administrator

Finally, and troubling, discrimination has become more of an issue. 18% of open-source professionals now report they have been discriminated against or made to feel unwelcome in the community. That's a 125% increase over the past three years.

There's also a gap between what employers think they're doing with diversity and what employees see. Virtually all employers, 98%, state that they're proactively encouraging diversity in hiring, up from 88% last year and 79% three years ago. But, only 76% of employees feel their companies are making an effort to hire a more diverse workforce. 

But, it's very telling that fewer companies actively recruit under-represented individuals since last year's report. This decline implies that while hiring managers pat themselves on the back, fewer of them are actively looking for under-represented individuals and encouraging them to apply. Clearly, employers need to do more than pay lip service to diversity hiring.

Considering how desperate companies are for open-source talent, companies that aren't willing to hire top talent -- regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., etc. -- are doing both their businesses and their potential employees a disservice. 

After all, in open-source circles, the ideal has always been that it's a meritocracy. That the people who produce the best work rise to the top, regardless of everything else. Employers need to embrace this concept in its best sense if they're to meet their needs for top workers.  

Related Stories:

Editorial standards