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Computing Professionals: Changing Needs for the 1990s
This chapter recapitulates the key conclusions developed in Chapters 2 through 5 on data and taxonomy, demand, supply, and training. The conclusions are complemented by pointers to next steps for addressing issues more directly.
ACKNOWLEDGING EVOLVING DEMAND
Changes in computer and communications technology, combined with changes in the economy—in the structure, growth patterns, and geographic reach of industries—are altering the demand for computing professionals. Demand is further complicated by a growing internationalization of the computing professional work force.
Crosscurrents are shaping employment opportunities for computing professionals in firms that supply and organizations that use computing technology. The industrial sector supplying computing technology is metamorphosing: opportunities are declining in the segments based on the centralized computing paradigm but increasing in segments oriented to distributed computing—in firms that develop smaller systems and associated software, networking, and so on. On the user side, the consolidation of larger firms to achieve economies of scale is offset by the diffusion of computing and communications technology across a widening set of organizations. The general consensus among workshop attendees was that there may be net, moderate growth in employment. But focusing on the averages can obscure the magnitude of the shifts taking place in the mix and the nature of job opportunities for computing professionals.
Budget tightening that constrains academic research and the decline of large, central industrial laboratories do not bode well for jobs in computer science and engineering research. These developments are part of a larger decline in the conventional research environment, and it is not apparent that we have an attractive model for continuing to meet national needs for research relating to computing and communications. Absent other changes, the research component of the job market may decline. Because occupations and functions are not necessarily identical, it is possible that new job opportunities may arise outside of research that can tap the higher skill levels of computer science and engineering Ph.D.s, thus conveying broad economic benefits. But broader use of these individuals is not the same as expansion of the research capability.
Required levels of skill appear to be increasing. Employers represented among workshop participants reported that their skill requirements are increasing in all professional domains—research,