With the current shortage of qualified IT staff, it’s easy to imagine that your own employment is secure for the foreseeable future. But within IT, there are some jobs that are going the way of buggy whips. The good news is, new jobs are coming to replace them—if you’re ready.

That’s according to Todd Sander, vice president of research and the executive director of the Center for Digital Government at e.Republic Inc., speaking at the recent Laserfiche Empower conference. While his presentation was focused on trends in digital government, much of what he said was applicable to IT jobs in any industry.

These skills are particularly important in the state and local government market, where CIOs anticipate that 20 to 30 percent of their workforce will be eligible to retire in the next five years, and that 40 percent of them don’t believe they will be able to recruit people with the right skills, Sander said.

What problems can arise from hiring workers who lack the right skills? Sander listed five:

  • Lower staff productivity
  • Poor customer service
  • Organizational inefficiencies
  • Security vulnerabilities
  • Slow response to change

In fact, there are jobs predicted to be popular in 2030 that don’t even exist today, Sander said. These include gamification designer, or the person who adds game elements to everyday activities. According to the Canadian Scholarship Trust (CST) Plan, “by making otherwise boring or difficult activities into one of fun and (literally) games, the gamification designer can motivate people, help them heal, inspire better customer experiences, or make better habits.”

Our favorite, naturally, was simplicity expert, or someone who specializes in streamlining and simplifying workflows. “The simplicity expert is there to reduce fifteen administrative steps to three, or four interviews to one, or three days of work to a half hour,” writes CST. “Part designer, part math whiz, and part sociologist, the best simplicity experts need an understanding of how humans work to come up with new and creative methods of working that benefit people throughout an organization. How might a business improve by re-organizing its resourcing operations? Could tasks be redistributed to fewer people?”

Certainly there are a number of recession-proof IT jobs, Sander noted, such as:

  1. IT Project Managers
  2. Business Analyst
  3. Cyber Security
  4. All things Cloud
  5. Software Engineer
  6. Applications Developer
  7. Systems Architect
  8. Systems Engineer
  9. Systems Administrator
  10. Systems Analyst

But there are other IT skills that face declining demand, Sander warned:

  1. Tape Management
  2. PC and Software Support
  3. Mainframe Programmers
  4. Traditional Telephony
  5. Lotus Notes Administrator
  6. Novell GroupWise Admin
  7. Server-only Administrator
  8. Windows XP Administrator

The good news is that for each of these skills in declining demand, there are also comparable skills with stable or even growing demand that wouldn’t require much retraining, Sander said. For example, instead of specializing in tape management, specialize in data backup. Instead of specializing in PC and software support, support end users in general.

Sander recommended that organizations incorporate training for all IT employees, and to make updating skills and IT certifications a priority. To attract new talent to an organization that may not be seen as trendy, come up with purposeful internships or leadership training programs. Acknowledge that this is now the age of permanent managed services and look for ways to reduce the amount of infrastructure the company manages internally. And don’t forget, when hiring, to look for experienced staff who may be considered “too old” for today’s tech industry.

As a model, Sander pointed to the red-winged blackbird. While it may not be as beautiful as a cardinal nor as noble as an eagle, because of its flexibility and resilience, it is now one of the most abundant birds in North America. “In times of stability, the specialist wins,” he said.  “In disruptive times, the generalist wins.”

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