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Ten IT Employer Perspectives

The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) recently convened its Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) for the first quarterly meeting of 2022. Regular blog readers know that these BILT meetings offer a forum to discuss future trends in the IT workplace. The hope is that these discussions — which supplement the annual “KSA vote” meeting in which employers rank and prioritize entry-level job skills — can keep educators as updated as possible on the ongoing evolution of IT. You should likewise be meeting with your BILT as often as possible (twice a year at least, once a quarter is best) to make sure your program stays aligned with workforce trends.

To learn more about what the CTC calls the “BILT model,” you can watch a 25-minute webinar here or download our new toolkit.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more interesting statements that came out of our February meeting. You can also get a copy of our meeting handout, which provides a number of IT industry workforce charts and tables you may find useful.

The network admin of tomorrow won’t come in and just know how to program and manage the network. That person will have to automate and integrate the tasks and functions using things like APIs. APIs are a “game changer” because they integrate one manufacturer’s product with another. Companies may not be looking for two-year graduates to work as programmers to design the APIs, but they do need technicians who know how to use APIs.

There may be some truth to the idea that the more certs one has, the more marketable he/she may be, one employer noted that one also has to eventually become an expert in a specific topic. “You cannot constantly drink from the firehose.”

Regarding quantum computing, right now the technology has a capacity of 50 to 100 qubits. But to “open up” blockchain or encryptions, it will take 13 million qubits. This may not be possible until at least 2030. The big worry about quantum computing is the ability to “look in between” transactions because of its speed. The standard cyber safeguards created for normal processing speed won’t work with the faster quantum processing power.

Students who know early on that they want to be in technology should not wait to take classes — take A+ in high school. Start on certs early.

One employer told the story of testing job applicants on troubleshooting skills by leaving the Ethernet cable only halfway plugged in. The applicants never figure it out. The employer believes that they’ve “spent too much time in packet tracer.” Packet tracer and emulators cannot replace the experience of going to a lab and touching the physical hardware. You can always brush up your skills virtually. Employers in a job interview will not ask about packet tracer and hypotheticals. They’re going to ask the job applicant the basics, then see how far they can dig. You can only learn so much reading a book. Employers will want to “get into the weeds.”

One BILT member, who’s now a security professional, admitted that for a long time he thought of security as a network function: you secure switches, routers, and firewalls. But with things like Docker you’re securing at the software level. This “changed my view of security,” the BILT member noted.

Soon 75% of the workforce will be working for themselves. High tech companies are already moving this way. In that sort of economy, self-management, communication, and entrepreneurism are skills that are just as important as technical skills.

Students should become a “master of the OSI model.” If students can do that, there’s nothing in technology that they cannot do. The OSI layers covers everything.

For students interested in security, whether it’s a security engineer or a PEN tester, they need to know networking. One employer has seen too many people jump in with a CEH cert but have no understanding of networking.

Educators may want to consider adjusting curriculum to help students better understand this new emphasis on remote work. Maybe capstone projects should be delivered online. If new hires can come in with those kinds of soft skills, employers can augment their technology skills.

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