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Steering Kids Away from IT
Written by Tom Hoffman

According to university administrators, enrollment in computer science and IT-related undergraduate programs has dropped by 40%-to-50% over the past decade. There are plenty of reasons for this, including a steady rise among college students to pursue degrees in other disciplines such as Business (Number 1), Social Sciences and History, Education and Health Sciences, according to recent statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics.

But certainly a big contributor to the downturn in computer science majors is a widespread perception among American youth that a career path in IT is limited at best. These views – right or wrong – have been exacerbated by the rise in offshore contracting among U.S. employers over the same decade. This has fed into a prevalent notion that the land of opportunity for up-and-coming IT professionals isn’t America but instead places such as India, China, Singapore and Sao Paolo.

Some CIOs and other IT observers believe U.S. IT employers have created a self-fulfilling prophecy: that by sending an increasing amount of work offshore in recent years, we’ve created a disincentive for American children to pursue educations in IT-related disciplines. With declining enrollments in domestic IT programs, U.S. employers are increasingly beholden to offshore contractors to provide programming, project management and other skills that are and will continue to be needed.

This will become even more evident as waves of Baby Boomer IT professionals begin to leave the workplace and there are fewer and fewer younger American professionals to replace them.

But there’s another side to this. From the time that offshore outsourcing first took off, an increasing number of Baby Boomer IT pros have been telling their children not to pursue careers in IT. Some of these parents are IT veterans who have been directly affected by outsourcing (re: downsized). A portion of those have had to endure the ignominy of having to train their offshore replacements under the threat of not receiving their full severance packages if they failed to comply. You can’t blame them for being sour.

When the offshore debate was raging a few years ago, there were countless frustrated IT professionals who made it clear that they didn’t want their own children to experience the same kind of disillusionment they feel IT has dealt them. Whether you agree with them or not, it is a factor that’s influencing the future demographics and direction U.S. IT organizations.


Comments (2)
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1. 01-27-2010 10:46
It's a sad state of affairs that what was once considered a strong career is viewed by many now as a dead-end. Outsourcing was the catalyst and now the downward spiral will be fueled by a lack of homegrown talent. In the future companies will be forced to look elsewhere for their IT talent if we don't find a way to bring students back to IT careers.
Ellen Pearlman
2. 01-27-2010 15:39
Gary North said it well: Do not major in anything that can be outsourced.
David Chappelle

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