Friday, February 05, 2010

Tech Jobs Come Calling

While the Great Recession drags on, not all sectors are getting hit equally hard. In fact, technology is doing rather well on the jobs front. Employers shed 85,000 positions from November to December of last year. But they added 5,200 tech jobs during the same month. Seems like technology is the place to be.

Can you make technology work for an employer?That doesn’t mean that having technology credentials is guaranteed employment. Just ask anyone working in a factory. U.S. manufacturing was moving out of the country even during the good times. With weakened demand for products, most companies are feeling the pinch and many have responded by laying off people. Even the best employers may have to thin the ranks when survival of the company is at stake.

Aside from the depth of this downturn, there’s really nothing new going on here. Business has always been somewhat cyclical. Some years you can have your pick of several good opportunities. Other years the employment section of the newspaper is bare. But, in general, you are better off with marketable skills in the current technologies than without them. During tough times, companies will tend to keep the people that are essential to delivering the product or service that is core to the business. If they need to bring in outside talent, they’ll be scanning resumes for specific skills that exactly match the job that needs doing. Even as business starts to pick up, employers want to selectively add talent that can be productive immediately. Only in the boom times of full employment will they settle for the best of whatever’s available.

Know what’s really booming right now? Technical and skills training of all types. The trade schools and junior colleges are flooded with students who want to learn everything from computer networking to nursing to welding to truck driving. The junior college nearby recently added a truck driving school and now I see their students driving the big rigs around town. Another community college in a nearby town offers a wind turbine technician program. Talk about preparing for the future jobs!

So, here’s your strategy. If you like technical things and are considering entering a certificate or degree program, I’d enthusiastically encourage you to do so. What the job market will be like on graduation day is always a coin toss. But chances are that if you start a two or four year program now, employment prospects will be better when you are ready to start work than they are at the moment. Even if that timing is off, there will still be some really good jobs that go begging for the right skills and someone willing to go where they are.

You can improve your prospects by investigating what technical fields and what businesses are growing at the same time you are busy learning your lessons. Green energy is almost certainly a growth field. So is health care. E-commerce has been hot for a decade. What’s beyond Web 2.0? You need to know and learn the skills that employers want and will pay for.

How about if you’ve been out of school for a long time or are even between jobs? Find out what skill set companies in your area would hire if they could find someone qualified. Thirty years ago it was people who knew something about microprocessors. I picked up a couple of courses at that community college in town and landed a good engineering job based on having just the right flavor of training at the right time. Somebody needs something accomplished even in this economy. Find out what it is, and if you can fill the requirements with your background plus some specific coursework... there’s your opportunity.

Follow Telexplainer on Twitter