One of the outgrowths of Internet technology was the development of "IT groups." Suddenly, IT professionals became the engines that fired the fortunes of both dot-coms and "brick and mortars," putting them in the driver's seats of many compensation negotiations.

Their salaries skyrocketed; their portfolios now included stock options; their offices were filled with cutting-edge technology; and their long schedules included built-in flexibility to enjoy newly attained prosperity. They wanted it all, and, in large part, they got it.

Salary moves
PricewaterhouseCoopers, in its Unifi Survey of eCommerce Professionals Compensation, says the base salaries of senior level software engineers rose 11.8% between 1998 and 1999 to $86,000; web designers/site builders' salaries rose 11.2%; and chief technical officers/R&D saw salary jumps of 18.2% to $125,300.

And although bonuses averaged only $5,245 for IT job seekers compared to $7,950 for sales and marketing hires, bonuses for "techies" were often dramatic.

Mirronex Technologies, a New Jersey e-commerce company, gave its top talent a leased BMW Z3 for three years with the understanding that if they stayed longer, the car was theirs free. And Harris Group, a consulting firm based in Chicago, gave a select group of candidates $100,000 if they stayed with the company for five years.

IT labor shortages
There are clouds, however, on the IT horizon. The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute released a joint study stating that 346,000 IT positions, approximately 10% of the "core" workforce, are unfilled, threatening the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Norman Matloff, a University of California, Davis professor of computer science believes, however, that the shortage of IT workers is, at best, manufactured.

Myth challenged
In his latest article, Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage, he claims that the ITAA is involved in an orchestrated campaign to sway public opinion toward the importation of foreign IT talent.

Matloff says, "Readers of the articles proclaiming a shortage would be perplexed if they also knew that Microsoft only hires 2% of its applicants for software positions, and that this rate is typical in the industry."

Software employers, large or small, across the nation, concede that they receive huge numbers of ré sumé s but reject most of them without even an interview. One does not have to be a "techie" to see the contradiction here.

Hidden agenda?
A 2% hiring rate might be unremarkable in other fields, but not in one in which there is supposed to be a "desperate" labor shortage. If employers were that desperate, they would certainly not be hiring just a minuscule fraction of their job applicants.

Davis continues to say, "The hidden agenda of the ITAA public relations campaign which began in 1997 turned out to be to leverage Congress to increase the yearly quota of H-1B work visas, under which employers were importing tens of thousands of programmers to the U.S. each year. The campaign started calling for even further increases in the visa quota, which it attained in October 2000."

Stephen Leven, senior vice president, semiconductor group and director, worldwide human resources, for Texas Instruments Inc. disagrees, however, stating, "One figure says it all to me."

Graduation rates
According to a 1996 study by the Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies, National Center for Education Statistics, fewer than 20,000 Bachelor of Science electrical engineering degrees are awarded each year. "This is about 10,000 fewer than in the 1980s," Leven says.

Copyright © Kennedy Information LLC, 800-521-0007. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction prohibited by law.