IT lobbying group defends stance on worker shortage

The Information Technology Association of America is defending itself in the wake of a General Accounting Office report that claims concerns over nationwide shortage of information technology workers may be overstated.

The GAO report, released March 23, concludes that a Commerce Department report "has serious analytical and methodological weaknesses that undermine the credibility of its conclusion that a shortage of IT workers exists."The GAO report also concluded that a 14 percent response rate in a related ITAA survey was too low for an accurate characterization of the IT job market. Industry and federal agencies have reported that an IT worker crunch is making it difficult to find qualified workers.

ITAA officials said in a prepared statement that the GAO report "misses the bigger picture."

In their response, ITAA officials stated, "Attacking the 'methodology' used to describe conditions facing employers today, the GAO report fails to recognize what is obvious to every high-tech job seeker: that newspaper classified advertising pages are overrun with positions for IT workers, that Internet [World Wide] Web sites list thousands of currently available IT assignments, that employers go to extreme lengths to attract and retain appropriately skilled individuals, that starting salaries for college computer science graduates average over $40,000 and that IT companies are among the fastest-growing, creating unprecedented demand for new employees."

Rep. George Brown Jr. (D-Calif.), ranking minority member of the House Science Committee, defended the GAO report. "In making public policy, a bad number can be more dangerous than no number at all," he said. "The GAO study demonstrates that all the numbers on a shortage are unreliable. We simply don't know enough about labor conditions in information technology fields to begin to develop an appropriate response."

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