What is the half-life of your staff’s IT knowledge? In 1962, economist Fritz Machlup coined the phrase “knowledge half-life” to describe the time it takes for half the knowledge in a particular domain to be superseded. You probably will not be surprised to learn that the half-life of IT knowledge decreases every year.
But now in 2014 we are in a new century, and the world has continued to change in many profound ways. Today, many of the innovations changing the way we work, live and play are happening in places such as the cloud and mobile apps. New applications for business, entertainment, communication, productivity, and connections are being developed and launched every day, sometimes with profound impact. So how does the IT proffesional stay current with their skills and maintain their marketability?
Approximately 2,400 U.S. CIOs were recently surveyed by Robert Half Technology. About 50% said their best career advice for college graduates entering the IT industry is to keep learning new skills and stay current in their field.
Additionally, 17% of respondents suggested new graduates take any opportunity that will help them get a foot in the door with an employer.
Other career advice that’s popular among CIOs includes: be ready and willing to work long hours (13%), join industry networking groups (8%), and find a mentor (8%).
“Employers want to hire people current with the latest software, tools and trends -- and these are continually evolving. Employees who can hit the ground running with minimal training are highly sought at any level,” said John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement.
The hiring prospect overall remains competitive and healthy for IT professionals. IT employment numbers are rising, and CIOs are confident about hiring budgets. On a year-over-year basis, IT employment has grown by approximately 3.2% in the last year.
When CIOs were surveyed about their hiring plans for the next six months, 14% said they plan expand their teams in the last half of 2014.
Another 76% of CIOs expect to hire only for open IT roles, compared to 67% in the first six months of the year. Meanwhile, the number of CIOs who plan to put a hold on hiring is declining -- 8%, compared to 15% in the previous survey. Just 1% expect to reduce their IT staffing levels.
On the talent front, 61% of CIOs told Robert Half Technology that it’s somewhat or very challenging to find skilled IT professionals. The areas where it’s hardest to find skilled talent are applications development (cited by 17%), networking (17%) and security (12%). When asked which skills sets are in greatest demand within their IT departments, CIOs called out network administration (57%), database management (52%), and desktop support (52%).
According to a recent article in the IEEE Spectrum, the half-life of an IT professional’s career is now about 10 to 12 years or perhaps even less. Staying relevant for even that amount of time takes dedicated, ongoing self-education, also known as “upskilling.”
The same IEEE article says that IT professionals need to spend seven to ten hours a week, 48 weeks a year, gaining new knowledge in order to stay current. It is not too surprising that the number of IT staff in training over the past 12 months ranges from 72 percent in Japan to 97 percent in India and Thailand, according to CompTIA’s 2013 global workforce survey.
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