The IT degree drop-off

Fewer people are studying information technology in college


Here’s a scary thought: Even as the trucking industry comes to rely more and more on a variety of information technol­ogy (IT) systems for everything from communicating freight manifest data to compiling vehicle inspection reports, there are fewer and fewer college graduates available who specialize in vital IT disciplines. That’s the result of a new study con­ducted by CareerBuilder and its Economic Modeling Special­ists Intl. division, which notes that U.S. colleges and universities are producing fewer IT graduates than they did a decade ago.

The results of this study are worrisome to say the least, for even as the number of computer and IT jobs grew 13% nationally from 2003 to 2012, the number of computer and IT degrees completed in the U.S. declined 11% during that same period—a drop-off in tech-related degree completions even starker in some of the largest metropolitan areas such as New York City.

Of the 15 metros with the most computer and IT degrees in 2012, for example, 10 saw decreases from their 2003 totals, with the biggest decreases occurring in New York City (a 52% drop), San Francisco (down 55%), Atlanta (declining 33%), Miami (off 32%), and Los Angeles (down 31%).

“The deficit in IT degree completions is concerning when you consider that there is already a considerable gap between the demand for and supply of IT labor in the U.S. today,” noted Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.

He believes the “IT degree slowdown” over the last decade may be influ­enced, in part, by the dot-com bubble collapse and by more recent trends of tech workers being trained by employers or trained through informal pro­grams outside of a traditional academic setting.

This is also part of a larger—and just as disturbing—trend that indicates there’s a widening “skills gap” between what is taught in college and what the workday world is demanding in terms of job skills.

In a survey of 1,616 U.S. residents age 18 or older who are full-time, part-time, or self-employed conducted this past April by Harris Interactive on be­half of the University of Phoenix, only 25% of those adults said college educa­tion today effectively prepares students for employment in the workforce, with only 10% saying it prepares students very effectively.

On top of that, more than one-in-five (22%) workers believe that college education does not effectively prepare students for employment, a statistic that worries Sam Sanders, college chair for University of Phoenix School of Busi­ness and 20-year veteran human resources executive.

In an era where almost everything is computerized to some degree or an­other—heck, the laptop is probably the single most central tool used by today’s truck maintenance technicians—not having enough folks who specialize in IT is rather disturbing to say the least.

Again, though, like CareerBuilder’s Ferguson said, maybe this is because folks are obtaining their IT knowledge via different pathways than the tradi­tional college-degree route. If so, let’s hope they are gaining both proper and in-depth IT learning, for trucking is surely one industry that will desperately need it.


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