At the South by Southwest (SXSW) 2016 event this week, President Barack Obama announced another expansion of the White House TechHire initiative, which aims to fill some roughly 600,000 open tech jobs in the U.S. The challenge is that many of those jobs may soon be eliminated thanks to the rise of machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) systems.
The White House says a total of 50 communities will soon be working with more than 600 employers to train technology workers in a matter of months instead of years. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a final rule to expand and extend the use of the existing Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for STEM graduates. The STEM OPT program gives international students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in the U.S. the chance to supplement their classroom education with practical skills training.
Demand for jobs in the IT channel
Many of those new IT recruits are going to end up working at IT services firms. In fact, a recent report from CompTIA revealed that more than half of the 200,000 new tech jobs created in the U.S. in 2015 were in the IT services sector.
Clearly, there’s a major shift happening in terms of increased reliance on IT service providers. Thanks to the rise of the cloud and pressure to become a truly digital business, internal IT organizations are starting to think of themselves more as orchestrators of internal and external IT services. That shift pushes more IT tasks outside the walls of the traditional enterprise.
But IT service providers are not standing idle waiting for a government entity to solve their personnel shortage problems. Many of them are investing in advanced IT automation frameworks that use machine learning algorithms to enable their existing IT staffs to manage more IT resources at an unprecedented level of scale. Others are even starting to employ AI systems to reduce their need for IT security professionals that are extremely hard to hire and retain.
While it’s unlikely these technologies will ever replace the need for IT professionals entirely, they will most certainly eliminate many of the traditional entry level jobs. In short, governments around the world are investing tax dollars in training people for entry-level technology jobs that in a year or so might not exist anymore. In fact, it’s even arguable that in a few short years the bulk of the people currently working in IT will need to be retrained as many of the job functions they perform become increasingly automated.
For that reason, IT service providers need to get more vocal about not what their needs are today, but rather what their needs will be a year or more from now. Governments are investing in technology training programs in expectation that there will be a specific IT job to be filled. When that doesn’t work out as planned, it will only add more fuel to a growing global sense of economic resentment that is already having a major impact on the Presidential race in the U.S.
None of this means that countries shouldn’t be investing in developing IT skills. But as is often the case with any government program, the timetable for when those investments might bear fruit and the needs of the people they are intended to help are often misaligned.