Minnesota faces a substantial shortage of IT workers, according to Bruce Lindberg, executive director of the Center for Strategic Information Technology and Security (Strategic IT). "People are slow to catch up with reality," Lindberg says. "When the dot com bubble burst in 2001, there was an excess of people in the industry. That's not true now."

As Lindberg notes, the IT worker shortage has been building for a while. According to an article in the November 16, New York Times, the percentage of college freshmen who declared computer science as a probable major dropped from more than 6 percent in 1999 to just over 2 percent in 2007. The percentage of women planning to major in IT plunged to .3 percent - down from more than four percent in 1982. The growth of IT companies in India is reducing the pool of workers available to come to the U.S. on temporary visas.

High Growth/High Pay

In a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) projection for 2004-2014, six of the top eight high growth/high pay occupations were IT related. In the top 25 categories, IT positions accounted for 30 percent of projected openings. Projections made before the current economic downturn estimated an annual shortfall of 1000 IT workers. While economic conditions could dampen demand and keep current employees working longer before retiring, Lindberg says the long-term demand for IT talent is strong.

Of course, today's IT field has changed from a decade ago, Lindberg notes. "The threshold for skills and talent has risen. IT professionals at all levels are expected to have an understanding of their industry context - how IT can leverage the business goals," he says. Lindberg says that the need for business knowledge can help workers to make a transition from disciplines like marketing or operations management to IT.

Not The Old Days

Lindberg sees application development using tools like ASP.NET, PHP, Java and PERL as another growth area. These are positions where proficiency may be more important than degrees and certifications, Lindberg says. Still, these aren't the old-fashioned programmers who spend eight hours a day writing code. "Maybe 30 percent of the time is spent in development. The rest is developing an understanding of the business and user needs," Lindberg says.

Strategic IT helps students explore careers in IT and helps IT professionals to upgrade and advance their careers. For more information, visit www.strategicit.org.

Laura French is principal of Words Into Action, Inc., and is a freelance writer from Roseville.