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Talent Shortage? Employers Must Take Some Of The Rap

Ask a dozen CIOs and tech vendor CEOs to identify their single most pressing challenge, and you'll likely get at least 10 different answers, right? Not exactly. In fact, they all come back to one overarching concern: finding, grooming, and retaining tomorrow's leaders.

I wrote a column on this subject last May, after five CEOs, in separate conversations, expressed their frustration with U.S. immigration policy, the U.S. education system, and other trends that influence their future labor pool. All these execs say they're preoccupied with building their next-generation tech workforces amid a looming talent shortage in the United States. I subsequently heard similar rumblings from six or seven CIOs.

A vast right-wing conspiracy? More like fear and loathing in tech America. The U.S. workforce is aging, and there aren't enough computer science and other technical college grads to replace retirees. It's still hard to get a U.S. work visa, and foreign nationals graduating from U.S. universities increasingly are returning home or heading to other countries.

The Technology CEO Council, an advocacy group that includes the chiefs of Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, and Sun Microsystems, last week called on the White House and Congress to grease the labor supply skids. Among their seven proposals for improving U.S. competitiveness were two related to the tech workforce: Increase funding for recruiting and developing math teachers, and change immigration laws to make it easier for foreign IT pros to work in the United States.

This column has long argued that the more talented technical people we can develop in, and attract to, this country, the better for the economy and its people--vendors, IT organizations, consumers. However, this looming labor shortage isn't just a straight supply problem. It's also an HR embarrassment. Instead of just wringing their hands about their labor challenges, employers need to look in the mirror.

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