Tech labor shortage due to college degree requirements

By | April 4, 2022

The tech industry is struggling with unprecedented labor shortages, and to come out ahead, employers may need to reset the bar for entry.

There are now 197,000 more open IT roles in the US than a year ago, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it’s predicted that people joining the IT industry will increase 13% between 2020 and 2030. But if employers want to actually fill Those much-needed roles, they need to rethink their recruiting strategies and consider scrapping the need for four-year degrees.

“You can get into tech without a college degree — it’s possible,” says Cory Althoff, senior vice president at the Computing Technology Industry Association. “We have a huge community of people that are all learning how to program outside of a traditional four-year computer science [degree] and that have successfully made the journey to becoming software engineers at different types of companies.”

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While college is often seen as the only way to get into the professional world, the proliferation of coding and programming bootcamps is teaching workers IT skills that can be applied today. Combined with a labor shortage, the tech landscape is quickly evolving to create pathways into the industry that didn’t exist before.

“There was already a shortage of tech workers before the pandemic, and now with the pandemic and the Great Resignation it’s even worse,” Althoff says. “This is a really great opportunity for companies to reevaluate why they’re requiring college degrees and why they [may or may not] need them to fill these positions.”

Althoff is one of the new generation of so-called self-taught software engineers. After completing his undergraduate degree in political science, Althoff learned to program and code in his free time until he’d gained enough experience to land a software engineering job at eBay.

While Althoff didn’t start out with a traditional engineering background, he says there are many more applicants just like him eager to work. Not only will they find employees with real-world experience right out of the gate, they’ll be advancing their DEI goals, too.

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“One thing that the [tech industry] has really struggled with is having a diverse set of employees,” he says. “When you start dropping the degree requirements, you now have access to a more diverse set of candidates and are able to hire people that wouldn’t traditionally be in tech.”

Instead of the standard resume, Althoff predicts that tech employees of the future will more than likely submit their GitHub — a commonly used platform where software developers can store and submit their work, including projects and codes they’ve worked and collaborated on.

Many self-taught software engineers will also have freelance work under their belt and enough coding experience to successfully perform in entry level tech positions where they will then learn the skills to continue to climb the career ladder.

“Companies are having to adapt and start accepting more self-taught software engineers because workers have the upper hand right now,” Althoff says. “Companies that refuse aren’t going to be able to compete.”

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