VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: Indiana needs to develop more technology workers

Far from its older perception of a backoffice function, information technology today is cutting edge and business savvy, driving innovation in virtually every industrial sector.

As an industry, IT in Indiana has seen significant growth in the past few years. In fact, the state’s tech
nology sector has grown so quickly that the industry faces a new challenge-employers are experiencing explosive growth and cannot find enough qualified individuals to fill these new positions.

As documented by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development report, “Hoosier Hot 50 Jobs,” plenty of high-paying IT jobs exist all over the state. According to the DWD, these jobs are paying between $50,000 and $70,000 per year, which is more than double the state’s median wage. In fact, the DWD finds that five out of the top 15 jobs are in the field of information technology, reflecting a growing national demand.

Companies in the IT space like Aprimo, Baker Hill, ExactTarget, Interactive Intelligence, Angel Learning, Vyante, Interactions, Ontario Systems, BitWise Solutions and many others continue to expand at outstanding rates. The opportunities in IT are not limited to only this sector, but also cut across all sectors as IT is the backbone of growth in the 21st Century economy.

Limited work force

The state’s limited IT work force remains an issue to not just these technology-driven organizations, but to companies of all size. With this work force shortage, some employers cannot keep pace with their rapid expansion, much less devote time for entrepreneurial innovation. To capture these opportunities, Indiana needs a renewed focus on IT.

Why the current and future demand for IT professionals in Indiana and nationwide? Information technology today has become a driver of entrepreneurial activity and a major component of any enterprise. No longer do IT workers solely focus on the management of software or hardware. Today the chief information officer of any business represents a critical strategic partner of any major development.

The performance of a company’s IT professionals can make the difference between substantial profitable operations or near-bankruptcy.

While the IT industry took a hit following the dot-com bust at the turn of the century, its importance today and for the future is unquestioned. Want to initiate real business process improvement so you can elevate strategic competitiveness? IT will play a key role.

Thinking about upgrading your company’s Customer Relationship Management operations? IT will be at the heart, transforming data into actionable information.

To succeed long-term, more Hoosiers
need to become more fully aware of IT opportunities and seek them by pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a technology-related field.

People already in the work force can take advantage of ample opportunities within companies or through workforce retraining programs available all over the state. As Indiana develops a reputation for transformational innovation in key sectors, it must have the IT professionals to power this transformation.

Demand grows

Over the past 24 months the demand for computer software engineers has shot up an amazing 48 percent nationwide. The demand for these and other-related IT jobs are expected to increase, not tamper off.

Why? Consider this recent comment from industry analyst firm Forrester: “There’s a new relationship between IT and business that’s making software creation more accessible and relevant outside of [pure] IT; it’s part of a permanent shift where business analysts and business architects outside of IT are responsible for process design, collaboration and Web site experiences.”

According to CIO magazine, the hottest IT job in the country right now is director of business technology. The median pay rate? A little less than $160,000 annually. Those types of jobs exist in Indiana and more will come if our workforce responds.

The implication for Indiana is clear. Any workforce development initiative-whether governmental, educational or corporate-must include elements of IT training and integration.

Today’s IT professionals represent a hybrid of disciplines, firmly grounded in strategy and objective-driven performance. A quick look at the industries served by the Indiana University School of Informatics, where IT is carefully integrated into everything from music production to political science, underscores the emerging dominance of this IT-fueled trend.

How can Indiana seize this long-term advantage?

Much-needed IT workers won’t appear like players in a video game. They have to be inspired to consider a career in the IT industry. They have to have the opportunities and technology to learn. They must have continuous improvement and re-training. And most of all, they must have individual commitments to improve their knowledge base in a business environment that is constantly shifting.

Technology touches everything, making a tech-savvy Hoosier workforce critical for present and future growth.

Jay is president and CEO of TechPoint, a not-for-profit group that promotes the advancement of technology. Views expressed here are the writer’s.

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