Slow Adjustment in Tech Labor for CGO Research

The CGO published a policy paper I wrote with Henry Kronk.

The Slow Adjustment in Tech Labor: Why Do High-Paying Tech Jobs Go Unfilled?

Executive Summary

The United States technology industry continues to struggle to recruit new talent. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people employed in technology is not increasing quickly. 

Tech jobs pay well and don’t have the drawbacks of some other in-demand jobs, such as the travel schedule of a truck driver or the physically taxing labor required in oil fields.

Tech jobs are sometimes touted as a guarantee of having a comfortable and rewarding career, but the reality is not that simple.

Economics suggests that high wages would eliminate labor shortages, but that’s not the case in tech work. Why?

In this paper, authors Joy Buchanan and Henry Kronk propose a set of factors that have been overlooked and apply broadly to the tech sector. 

Individuals with high-status tech jobs report burnout, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues at higher rates than the general population. They also have to deal with the constant threat of becoming obsolete. Because technology changes so quickly, they must constantly work to update their skills in order to remain competitive.  

The authors offer several recommendations for tech companies, educators, and policymakers:

  • Political and community leaders can provide more accurate messaging such as communicating clearer expectations about the difficulties of entering the tech workforce. 
  • The tech industry could benefit from improvements in computer education. The authors cite a need for more pre-college exposure to computer occupations as well as a need to add communication skills to computer science curriculums.
  • Teachers, parents, and tech companies can all find ways to inform young people at an age-appropriate level about opportunities. Computer science is abstract and hard to understand. Young people who have some exposure to computer science through a class or camp are more likely to become CS majors in college. 
  • Company leaders can improve their recruitment and development strategies to reflect the labor market realities including paying enough to compensate employees for the mental challenges of demanding technical work and alleviating their own talent shortages by investing in training and education. 
  • Tech companies may be able to attract more women and minorities by improving their scheduling and management practices.

Henry and I examined public data and the existing literature to get a better understanding of the current state of knowledge on this issue. I hope our paper can be helpful, however we partly just highlight how many questions still exist about tech and talent.

My recent paper in Labour Economics, Willingness to be Paid: Who Trains for Tech Jobs?, was designed to add new data to address these questions.

2 thoughts on “Slow Adjustment in Tech Labor for CGO Research

  1. Scott Buchanan December 10, 2022 / 7:05 pm

    Very interesting points in your paper, factors that help explain the ongoing shortage of tech workers:
    “…In this paper we propose an additional set of factors that have been overlooked and apply broadly to the tech sector. …We examine whether jobs in tech are more difficult than policymakers realize or advertise. … In addition to a workplace that is stressful for some individuals, tech workers experience high rates of mental health issues….”

    Like

  2. StickerShockTrooper December 12, 2022 / 1:02 pm

    One factor: the tech field is always evolving but I feel that tech *hiring* is not. HR tends to be very conservative when hiring, often because the hirers aren’t not as tech-savvy as the position itself, so they introduce bogus requirements (BS in CompSci, n years of a programming language) that narrow the field when actual requirements could be more easily trained.

    Liked by 1 person

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