Information Technology Labor Category Requirements Are Changing

April 19, 2016
By David E. Meadows

Ultimately, the types of capabilities will drive personnel needs.

I need your help. And, I’m not smart enough to figure this out, but I do know that most of you through your information technology experience have a better insight.

Here’s a background to outline the mystery that my professional curiosity has generated. The mystery has to do with how the Internet of Things (IoT) and the generation of a Complexity of Things (CoT)—caused by automation, increased information technology effectiveness and a wealth of new technologies—are going to change the information technology labor category staffing requirements..

My July 2015 SIGNAL blog was about how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education had become a critical element of national security—a CENS. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and the U.S. Navy 10th Fleet graciously provided insight to their strong support for STEM. John Holdren, White House assistant to the president for science and technology, has highlighted how critical STEM education is to the security of our nation. Dennis Vilorio of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in a great research document, forecast a national need for 9 million new STEM graduates by 2022, and those estimates do not even include the information technology labor needs for the ever-growing medical field.

But STEM is a generic broad set of academic categories. Something happened the week of April 11 that made me think that while STEM is very important, levels within its purview would change because of the ever-evolving global Internet. Labor categories may be missing the level of competence we need while building on categories where we find ourselves with too many people.

Here is what happened. At a closed information technology meeting, the guest speaker, a renowned chief technology officer (CTO) within the Defense Department, brought up a relevant insight: as automation grew in connecting various arms of the IoT and introducing new technologies, it would affect information technology labor categories. And, the key word was “automation.” Tying automation to future labor requirements, the CTO foresaw this meaning a reduced need for the huge number of systems administrators required today with a growing requirement for more computer scientists. I presume the computer scientists are there to smooth out the introduction of new technologies and enhance effectiveness.

So I pondered—which is something older retired Navy captains do while trying not to cross the bow of oncoming traffic—which information technology labor categories would see declines based on the IoT tied to the CoT, along with introduction of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing. All of these would be wrapped in the process of automation. It seems intuitively that information technology labor categories would either grow or be reduced in number. But could some of those categories remain basically the same?

Does that sound right? I think it does, but am not completely sure.

So, here is where I really, really need your professional depth, insight and help. Below are 10 information technology standard occupational classifications (SOCs) by the BLS, all of which can be found on page three of the Vilorio “STEM 101 – Intro to Tomorrow’s Jobs” document. The BLS SOC is from 2010, so I would submit the category having to do with information security analyst also could be read as cybersecurity analyst. I am also adding system administrator and computer scientist for your thoughts.

The question for the reader—and you are welcome to share this blog; the more input the better—thinking five years out is which of the information technology labor categories below do you think will need more people; which will need less; and are there some that will remain the same? I don’t know the answer. I look forward to hearing from you.

  • Computer and Information Systems
  • Computer and Information Research Scientists
  • Computer Programmers
  • Computer Hardware Engineers
  • Database Administrators
  • Information Security Analysts
  • Network and Computer System Administrators
  • Operations Research Analysts
  • Software Developers/Applications
  • Web Developers
  • Systems Administrators
  • Computer Scientists
  • Add your own

David E. Meadows is a retired U.S. Navy captain and the author of the Sixth Fleet series, along with Seawolf, Joint Task Force Liberia, Tomcat, Final Run and other action-adventure novels.

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I'm hoping, though not in a personal career sense but a general want of people to be there as a safety-back stop to automated activities..that;
image analyst,
image equipment technicians,
database hardware specialists,
data communications (particularly non wireless) hardware specialists, and
geographic information systems
careers be added to the 'needing of more' people list.

You should include the important labor category of Systems Engineer. Without Systems Engineers, not much could be done to bridge the various technologies represented by the other labor categories you've already mentioned. Also, Systems Engineers play a vital role in progressive management decision making throughout the life of most Programs / Projects and they are paramount in establishing and sustaining development schedules. With the increase in complexities, sophistication, and integration requirements of most modern systems, I would think the need for this particular labor specialty would continue to grow over the coming years.

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