By Vivienne Heines
March 2001 - If you’re looking for a job, the outlook is excellent –- provided your expertise is in the high-tech industry, you have a strong math background, or you have a master’s degree in business administration.
Overall, the hottest job field currently is information technology. Analysts say that demand for jobs in IT continues to outpace supply, so many firms turn to foreigners to fill professional slots. Other hot job areas include engineering and marketing, with minority candidates emerging as strong candidates, according to industry leaders.
“The most in-demand general category is information technology specialists,” concurs Manville Smith, CEO of Exelenx.com, a career-management and career-consulting firm based in Boca Raton, Florida. “They are in demand throughout Latin America as well as in the United States. In fact, in the United States, we have a deficit of about 400,000 people in the information technology sector.”
The United States now imports thousands of information technology specialists on temporary visas. Not all of them have four-year degrees, either; some opt for technical degrees from two-year colleges. Others who already have degrees get certified online through programs offered by companies such as Microsoft. Such certification typically costs about $3,000, according to Mr. Smith.
“There are online assessment tests to see if people have the capabilities, skills, and interests to do something in that field,” he says. “If they don’t have the foundation and natural inclination toward mathematics, then they’re kind of wasting their time. Mathematics is absolutely key to this field – the ability to handle mathematical concepts and abstract thinking and problems. It’s a basic building block.”
While interest and aptitude are musts, it’s not always necessary to have prior experience in information technology. “Someone could conceivably tap into this if they had sufficient basic computer knowledge,” he says.
Entry-level pay for such positions in the United States ranges from $15 to $25 per hour, with more sophisticated programmers receiving $100 to $150 per hour.
“There is unlimited demand for these jobs, which is just amazing,” says Mr. Smith, who believes the U.S. education system has not kept up with demand for such jobs.
“We in the States haven’t paid enough attention to teaching basic mathematics,” he says. “Many of those who are coming here are from India, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong – all former British-empire countries where the people speak English and have the necessary education in math.”
Minority candidates with the necessary aptitude and training are particularly suited for the new, volatile economy, according to Mr. Smith.
“If you look at this from the Latino angle, I think the potential for increased job opportunities is greater than for the rest of the population. We are willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, and there are a whole lot of lower-end jobs available,” he says.
On the other hand, mid-level analyst positions are among the worst jobs to have now because many have been rendered obsolete by new computer capabilities in data analysis and interpretation, Mr. Smith continues.
“If you look at how we were organized, say, 10 years ago, there was a whole mid-range management level of people whose job it was to analyze and interpret information for upper management,” he says. “That has essentially been wiped out with the ability of computers to analyze information.”
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