Computing jobs are booming! Who will fill them?

January 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm Leave a comment

“Computer and mathematical” occupations are projected to grow by the largest percentage between now and 2018 — by 22.2%. In other words, “Computer and mathematical” occupations are the fastest growing occupational cluster within the fastest growing major occupational group.

via Computing Community Consortium.

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) have been updated (as of November 2009), to reflect the Great Recession.  The news is terrific for us — computing is only forecast to grow, and at an amazing rate.  The question is, who fill fill those jobs?

There are some commentors on the SIGCSE list suggesting that the undergraduate enrollment crisis is ended. At many universities, enrollment has started to rise, and may even be up to levels like those seen in 2000/2001.  However, there are other indications that the enrollment crisis may have flattened and may not be over at the smaller schools.  We are doing a statewide evaluation of computing in Georgia.  Several institutions are reporting “very few CS students” left, and firing instructors because of the decline in enrollment.

Even if enrollment has flattened or return to levels of 10 years ago, the BLS data suggests enormous growth in computing jobs.  How do we keep up the pace of matching growth?

At what point does the “undergraduate enrollment crisis” become like the “software crisis” — not a short term status but reality?  The software crisis was identified in the 1960’s as hardware capacity grew faster than software production.  Today, the challenges of the software crisis are just the challenges of software production, period.  It’s a sad reality.  Is it an undergraduate enrollment crisis ten years later?  Or is it the new state of undergraduate enrollment in CS/IT degree programs?

The growth of computing jobs has continued since the onset of the crisis.  Who’s filling the new jobs that are being created?  Certainly not CS/IT majors — we were producing too few of them to begin with, and since the enrollment decline, we are even further behind the growth curve.  I suspect that most of the computing jobs that BLS is identifying are being filled by non-CS/IT professionals doing a CS/IT job.  Maybe we’re going to have our greater impact on society and meeting these needs by shifting our focus, to helping to teach the large numbers of non-CS/IT students who will end up doing CS/IT jobs.

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