This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Interop 2015: Special conference coverage
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IT talent shortage may be a misperception

The perceived IT shortage of talent may be exaggerated; natural biases and hiring processes seem to be ruling out appropriate candidates.

Las Vegas -- During an Interop 2015 keynote Thursday, Brian Shield, the vice president of IT for the Boston Red Sox, discussed IT talent scouting. He said 50 million baby boomers in the United States will be retiring by 2020, which could leave a severe shortage of IT workers. But the notion of a nationwide IT talent drought may be overblown.

Analyst firms are reporting a rising number of tech jobs. At the same time, Millennials fresh out of IT programs and hungry for experience are job searching, as are mid-level IT professionals looking to advance to management positions. At this rate, it's hard to believe that IT leaders say they struggle to find the right talent. It appears that, rather than a skills gap, there is a larger problem: a disconnect between trained IT job seekers and what tech organizations and HR teams think they should look for.

Lack of Diversity Dogs IT

In addition to the obvious gap between eager job seekers and perceptions of the talent from IT managers, there is also still a lack of diversity within many IT organizations when it comes to race, gender, disability and even age, according to a panel of IT professionals during the Diversity in IT session at Interop.

It's possible that, thanks to natural biases, IT managers and HR teams are overlooking or ruling out candidates who might be a good fit, said Andy Aczel, founder and CTO of The Specialists Guild, a nonprofit that trains people on the autism spectrum for careers.

"We are programmed by nature to be afraid of differences," he said.  Both organizations and individuals need to work to overcome those biases, he added. 

But tolerance is not the same thing as inclusion, Aczel said. "I once was accused of sexism in reverse because I hired four women in a row," he said.

The jack-of-all-trades, non-specific job descriptions that flood further complicate the situation, Aczel said. Inclusion and making people feel comfortable in their job roles is not helped by loose ideas of what the job might entail.

But neither the lack of diversity nor the perceived talent gap will be solved if companies start simply hiring unqualified people. "You have to make your employees feel comfortable and foster diversity without just hiring a bunch of people that look different," he said.

Job Seekers: Do your part

But the problem won't be solved simply by businesses rewriting their job descriptions and fostering diversity. Job seekers should do their part by learning additional IT skills that make their resumes more compelling, said Barbara Horne, consultant for The Business Channels, a N.Y.-based boutique consulting firm. 

“By focusing on needed IT skills, you put yourself in a position where you can contract on projects," she said. "You're also putting yourself in a position where, if someone is uncomfortable with you for any [biased] reason, they have to deal with you anyway because they need that skill."

Employee retention and training within the organization will also be huge in helping businesses fill in their perceived skills gaps. IT managers should work on using their employees' unique strengths, and divvy up responsibilities to the employee who is best suited, Aczel said. This helps businesses recognize the strengths that each employee is bringing to the table.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, senior news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter. 

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