Increasingly, we use technology to communicate with family and friends as well as for shopping, banking, news and entertainment. This increase, however, is accompanied by a decline that has a potential impact on us all: enrollment in computer-related programs in North American and European colleges and universities has declined by more than 50 per cent since 2002.
This is somewhat confusing given the surge in the use and complexity of modern technology.
Some colleges and universities have closed or scaled down their information technology programs. In the Yukon, for example, we went from having a full, stand-alone, two-year diploma to a collaborative program where the teaching is shared through four colleges.
This trend will result in fewer specialists available to provide computer support, whether for business networks or home users. Subsequently, the smaller number of technicians available will be able to charge higher fees for their services.
Numerous reasons for this phenomenon have been considered. Some say the industry is cyclical, and we are simply in a downturn. The fact that the cyclical downturn has lasted over half of the life of the industry never seems to come into the discussion.
Also, support services are often contracted to offshore countries where salary expectations are lower and this has reduced the potential for local employment in the industry. The latter issue is compounded by the cost of training IT workers in Canada, who require higher wages than other countries.
The attractiveness of the job is another problem. Microsoft polled Canadian high school students several years ago and many students felt that they would rather have a job using technology than supporting it. This, despite the fact that the average annual salary for an IT worker in Canada in 2011 was about $68,000 — well above the national average.
Besides service and support, other jobs in the computer business will also become harder to fill. There will soon be a shortage of network administrators, security experts, and even people to wire buildings for new computer networks.
Eventually, many of us in the field will retire and replacing the necessary pool of trained workers is becoming a less likely prospect.
Where will this trend end?
Will enrollment continue on its current spiral or will it become revitalized? This is an important question, however, my demonstrated ability (or lack-thereof) to pick winning sports teams indicates I’m probably not your man for predicting the future.