European Brain Drain Looms

U.S. companies aren’t alone in worrying whether they’ll be able to hire enough specialized IT workers to fill their cubicles.

Europeans are bracing for a double whammy — a spike in retirees plus a drop
in IT graduates — that could leave them scrambling for help as early as
next year, according to a new report from Forrester Research .

Paradoxically, the shortage could come even as European companies,
especially in financial services firms, continue to shift IT jobs in
operations, applications maintenance and development to India, China, Russia
and other offshore hubs.

“Outsourcing does not mean simplification,” Richard Peynot, a Forrester
senior analyst, wrote in the report. “Companies that opt for global or
selective outsourcing can’t afford to move all responsibilities and
decisions to service providers.”

Peynot said large corporations and government agencies must have people
in-house for security, enterprise and technical architecture, and new

“These decisions should be made internally by people with high skill
levels — positions that Forrester believes are not ‘offshoreable,’ ”
Peynot said.

Forrester, which interviewed 48 companies and 13 universities and
engineering schools for the report, said schools must retool IT programs to
reflect new needs and produce graduates who can step into IT/business
analyst, systems architect, enterprise program manager and vendor manager

That means augmenting technical classes with business, management, finance
and contract courses. Ninety percent of companies in the study complained of
missing disciplines or lack of depth in IT programs, Forrester said.

Likewise, Forrester expects companies to significantly increase their own
training and education budgets over the next two years. But even with these
steps, the research firm said it’s unlikely to meet companies’ near-term

Similar concerns exist on this side of the Atlantic. According to a study
by the Computing Research Association, a group of more than 200 North
American universities and laboratories, enrollment in computer science
bachelor degree programs nationally plunged 19 percent in 2004.

Declining computer science enrollments are also on Bill Gates’ mind.
The Microsoft chairman and chief software architect recently kicked off his company’s sixth annual Research Summit with a discussion of how to get kids interested in computer science.

In an on-stage discussion with Maria Klawe, dean of engineering at Princeton
University, Gates admitted
falling enrollment and incomplete skill sets made it difficult for the
Redmond, Wash., software giant to find good employees.

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