Total US employment increased by 223,000 in the month of December 2022, edging the unemployment rate down to 3.5 percent, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported (PDF) Friday. At a time when the news is filled with stories of layoffs at technology companies such as Amazon and Salesforce, the bigger picture still points to massive technology skills shortages for mainstream organizations in the months ahead.
Industries seeing significant jumps in employment include leisure and hospitality (likely as a continuing response to pent-up demand from the early COVID era), health care (also echoes of COVID), and construction.
These numbers, of course, reflect broad and general employment, from knowledge workers to bricklayers. There are implications for technology professionals, suggesting there will be no letup in skills shortages in specialized areas.
Even if companies opt to either cut back or compensate for their skills shortages with artificial intelligence, robots, and digital business flows, this means even more work for the people needed to design, build, program, and maintain such systems.
"We are constantly looking out for good-quality technology resources and we are recruiting to support our growth plans," relates Raju Seetharaman, senior vice president of IT and transformation at Legal and General America. "The technology layoffs we are seeing across the industry so far are a result of the additional demand created during pandemic with additional capital availability and unique business opportunities. This is partly due to return to pre-pandemic model and also due to global slowdown," he says.
"The skilled labor shortage will only get worse in the near future, as the need for tech talent continues to grow and the gaps between the available supply and demand for these individuals are exacerbated," predicts Laura Baldwin, president of O'Reilly Media.
"Leaders need to come up with new solutions for how to manage this shortage now. If we can't hire the talent that we need, we need to invest in learning and development to train for the skills that will help our businesses succeed.
"There really isn't an alternative. Companies that allow themselves to fall behind will come out of the recession in much worse condition than those that don't."
Legal and General America continues to seek "good coding skills, along with evolving technology skills around machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science, and analytics," says Seetharaman. His company also seeks skills in cloud computing and cyber security, "all critical to digital transformation and innovation."
Over the coming year, Baldwin predicts "sustained demand for cloud engineers, data, and machine learning talent. As the world moves toward more virtual offerings, more e-commerce, and more real-time on-demand requirements, there's a greater need for site reliability engineers, mobile engineers, and those with the skills to ensure anytime, anywhere access with virtually no downtime. Demand for these skills will not be impacted by the economy."
Still, while hard technology skills will be in demand, the two most important skills professionals can bring to the table are communication and team management. "Communication skills have always been critical of course, but in our new virtual and hybrid work world they're even more so," says Baldwin. "Tech leaders need to be able to effectively update their teams, bring other teams along on their projects, and collaborate across the organization."
Qualities important to Legal and General America include a "growth mindset," Seetharaman states. "Business-aware technology professionals will be best placed to advance their careers. Learn more about the why rather than the what. Stakeholder management and communication skills continue to be key for increased collaboration and partnership needed to enable business growth."
Organizations, many of which may be facing the headwinds of a rough economy, will be turning to their technology executives and professionals for leadership and guidance. As was the case with Covid in 2020, digital solutions will provide ways to navigate and thrive in the turbulence.