North Texas tech companies are facing the prospect of delayed projects, overworked employees and problems retaining workers because of a shortage of job candidates who have the right technical skills. The number of Dallas area job postings on the technology employment website Dice.com hit 2,605 in May, up 36 percent compared to the same period in 2010. On Wednesday, there were 2,927 openings. “(The effect is) your inability to develop products as quickly as possible to serve customers,” said Brian Rankin, staffing manager at Dallas based Texas Instruments.
Although the impact of the shortage is hard to measure, businesses feel it regardless of whether they’re in the tech space, experts said. For instance, a retail business that needs a redesign of its website might have to wait until enough people can be assembled to get the update completed. “Any decisions about putting off (tech) projects; they’re not trivial decisions,” said Jim Thompson, president of the Dallas technology staffing company The InSource Group. “They affect revenue and profitability in many instances.”
For tech companies in particular, the employee shortage has other impacts, as well, he added. “The absence of being able to fill these positions requires work to be distributed among the existing staff, who are already working hard,” he said. “That creates retention issues, potentially. Or you may have to delay projects that have been approved. Timelines slip. That work gets delayed.” Tech companies faced shortages between 2004 and 2007, and more acutely during the 1990s’ dot com era, Thompson said. “It’s definitely coming back again,” he said. Many firms that need tech help “are turning to companies like ours, which is why our business is up.”
TI has openings for around 200 engineers, although not all of those spots are in the D FW area, Rankin added. The shortage of skilled workers puts companies in the United States at a disadvantage compared with foreign businesses because the U.S. firms can’t get talent in the door as quickly as they’re needed, Rankin added. “It feels like the same situation that continues to perpetuate itself,” he said.
Although some businesses look to outsource technology needs overseas, many have found that route isn’t as easy as it might appear, Thompson said. For one thing, the cost of doing that has risen as more U.S. companies have tried it out. Radically different time zones present another challenge, Thompson said. “There’s never been a silver bullet,” he added. “This stuff is hard.” Although the worker shortage is re-appearing, most of the extras that employers used to lavish on employees, such as signing bonuses and stock options, are largely gone, Thompson said. The resurgence in hiring is so new that permanent tech employees have largely seen flat wages since 2008, Thompson said.
Contract information technology workers have seen a rise of about 10 per cent in compensation during the same period, he added. Although pay varies by position and experience, wages for senior level people are six figures in some cases, Thompson said. Small companies in the tech space are having to get creative. “We’re using LinkedIn quite a bit and joining many industry groups in broad casting our position” that jobs are avail able, said Joyce Wood, a contract recruiter at Air Walk Communications Inc., a growing, 62 employee maker of telecom devices in Richardson. “We’re doing targeted LinkedIn searches (using) people’s networks.