Networking Job Sector Is Booming, IDC Says

If The Graduate's Mr. McGuire were to give Ben Braddock one word of career advice today, it might very well be "networking" and not plastics.

If The Graduate's Mr. McGuire were to give Ben Braddock one word of career advice today, it might very well be "networking" and not plastics.

According to a recent study from market watcher IDC, there's currently a 60,000-person shortfall of networking talent, with demand expected to outpace supply through 2011. Right now, IDC said, about 14 percent of the North American IT workforce works on IP networks; over the next four years, however, that tally is expected to more than double to 30 percent, or 780,000 workers.

IDC cited shortages in a handful of skill areas, including network security, wireless and voice. In fact, more than one-third of respondents identified a pressing need for networking pros with voice specialties, while almost 20 percent cited wireless needs.

In addition, IDC expects that 11 percent of security positions will remain in 2011 -- again, because of an absence of networking talent.

"This...confirms what many managers in the workforce are already keenly aware of: There is an acute and growing need for more IT professionals," said IDC analyst Cushing Anderson in a statement. "With more and more businesses moving critical operational functions over to the network, the IT department is assuming a much more strategic role in the organization and needs its infrastructure to be designed, implemented and maintained by highly skilled, highly trained individuals."

It's shaping up to be an increasingly networked future. According to the IDC survey, employers in all industries and market segments hope to hire more skilled networking personnel over the next few years. But they'll have trouble doing so, IDC projected, resulting in about 60,000 fewer full-time skilled workers than there are positions each year over the next three years.

This will occasion huge disruptions, first in terms of how enterprises hire, and second, in how they scale or deploy networking pros or networking services, with organizations placing a premium on certification (in lieu of outright experience) and service providers offering more and more managed networking services.

"[T]here is a 'skill gap.' The difference between the supply of skilled workers and the demand for those skills represents a challenge for networking vendors and their clients and an opportunity for IT professionals," wrote Anderson, Marianne Kolding and Susan Lee in IDC's report. "The overall gap between supply and demand for networking professionals is about 8 percent of the total demand. The good news is that the overall gap isn't getting any bigger. The bad news is that in some specialties, such as wireless networking, the gap is large, and in other segments, such as network security, the gap is growing very fast."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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