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Computing Professionals: Changing Needs for the 1990s
Maintaining U.S. excellence in the creation and use of computing systems requires access to a sufficient supply of the best talent. Because employers, educators, and public policymakers know so little about the size of the labor pool and the skill requirements and responsibilities of the individuals shaping the computer revolution, human resources planning and policymaking are more haphazard than they should be. Opportunities for achieving a better fit between supply and demand are being lost, and in an increasingly competitive global economy the consequences may be far-reaching.
WORKSHOP ORGANIZATION AND FINDINGS
Over the course of two days, the problems associated with trying to understand the scope and scale of computing professional occupations were discussed at a workshop convened by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board and the Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel of the National Research Council. The workshop was exploratory: its purpose was to assess what is and is not known about supply and demand for computing professionals; how perceptions about this labor market differ in industry, academia, and government; and what kinds of steps could be taken to advance knowledge and understanding of relevant issues. The workshop agenda and list of participants were developed by a steering committee, which framed the issues that participants were asked to discuss and deliberated over the comments and insights that were generated during the workshop. Participants in the workshop included academic computer scientists and engineers, managers of businesses developing and applying computing systems, and experts in human resources and labor economics. Participants were selected for their insights into real-world practice in these different arenas.
The steering committee found reasonable consensus among workshop participants about the following:
Demand Is Fluid and Skill Requirements Are Growing
Demand for computing professionals is subject to strong crosscurrents that are masked by statistical averaging. Industries that have been major employers of computing professionals have been contracting; at the same time, the shift to smaller systems is stimulating growth in sales throughout most of the computer sector. To draw meaningful conclusions, trends in individual industries, occupations, and computing and communications technologies must be evaluated together.