Businesses say they just can’t find the right tech workers

SAN FRANCISCO — Jobs creation has been the mantra of President Trump.

On Tuesday, for instance, he announced new jobs at automaker Ford Motor (moves in the works before his administration) and signed an executive order rolling back Obama-era climate change regulations in a bid to create more jobs for coal miners.

But while Trump has yoked his political success to creating jobs, studies show there are plenty of tech jobs. Indeed, the industry offers a tantalizing opportunity to put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work, according to new research from the Career Advisory Board, which closely tracks the jobs market, and others.

A “perception gap” between educators and employers, however, has left scores of jobs unfilled. Only 11% of employers believe higher education is “very effective” in readying graduates to meet skills needed in their organizations, according to a survey of 501 U.S. hiring managers, human resource specialists and executives in January by the Career Advisory Board. Some 62% said students were unprepared.

The jobs’ gap is especially pronounced by age: 72% of respondents agreed that  millennials are keeping pace with technology but only half of baby boomers are.

There are more than 500,000 open computing jobs nationwide, but less than 43,000 computer science students graduated into the workforce last year, according to Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 1.4 million more software development jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020.

Last year, the White House claimed the federal government alone needed an additional 10,000 IT and cybersecurity professionals.

The availability of so many tech jobs — particularly in coding, the Internet of Things, big data and cybersecurity — presents an opportunity for Trump to make good on his promise to create jobs while at the same time pursuing a $1 trillion infrastructure plan and major changes to the H-1B visa program, say educators and tech leaders.

“The jobs are already here,” says Rob Paul, president of DeVry University, which conducted research online for Career Board Advisory Board and offers educational services that includes boot camps for tech skills. “Speed is of the essence in filling them.”

The emergence of boot camps has slightly eased the  problem in getting thousands of Americans up to snuff in skills for coding, Internet of Things, big data, cybersecurity and high-tech manufacturing, but doesn’t go nearly far enough, say Paul and others.

“When I worked within Silicon Valley, it boggled my mind — there were so many available jobs,” says Randi Zuckerberg, CEO of Zuckerberg Media, which is partnering with DeVry and others to “get kids, especially girls, excited” about science, technology and math. Zuckerberg’s 6-year-old son took a course in robotics.

“A lot of progress is being made, but we need to ramp it up,” says Zuckerberg whose brother, Mark, is Facebook CEO. “Every company now is really a tech company, with needs for social media, supply management and distribution. The jobs will grow exponentially.”

A fertile area is data analysis: 59% of organizations expect to increase positions requiring data analysis skills over the next five years, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and the American Statistical Association.  Departments most in need are accounting and finance (71%), human resources (54%), and business and administration (50%), the report concluded.

Follow USA TODAY’s San Francisco Bureau Chief Jon Swartz @jswartz on Twitter.

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