Major shortfall in knowledge professional predicted by analysts

Trained IT manpower needed to fill 5 million new jobs by 2012

While India is riding high on the current global outsourcing wave, leading to a major growth in the ITES-BPO markets, it may not be entirely smooth sailing for the nascent industry in the near future.

Our silver lining, it appears, has a dark cloud behind it and the dark cloud has taken the form of a severe manpower shortage, expected to hit the sector over the next few years. While India is talking with pride about its great manpower edge in the area of IT/ITES services, this giant pool of skilled professionals it appears is not a self renewing resource. Industry watchers are already cautioning industry captains about the growing demand-supply manpower gap in the IT sector, which could prove to be a major impediment to further development of the market.

In the last two years-when owing to the overall global economic downturn, the IT domain witnessed a significant lowering of mercury and turned from hot to a cold market-there was a substantial dip in the number of people acquiring relevant skills for this segment. The student community, feeding on hype centered around the demise of the IT industry, was the first to abandon ship and give up training for this segment.

Today, when the IT market has once again done a volte face, placing the industry at the top of the job generation ladder, skepticism still persists about its viability as a career destination, preventing students and professionals to come flocking back. Analysts insist that it will take a while for the IT fever to pick up once again and for IT jobs to reacquire their earlier shine and edge.

These dynamic market conditions, where issues such as IT education are getting pushed to the back burner, are leading to even greater uncertainty about availability of "industry-relevant" professionals.

Requisite manpower: key growth driver
According to leading global business intelligence firms present in India, the Indian ITES sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of 44.2 percent during the 2003-2012 period, achieving revenues of US$ 64 billion. The IT services exports segment is expected to touch US$ 55 billion with a CAGR of 24.8 percent in the same time frame, with the domestic IT services market recording annual growth of around 31 percent over the next eight years.

Together, all three markets will log in revenues of US$ 148 billion and a momentum of 35 percent.

On the manpower side, the requirement numbers are equally ambitious. While the country currently employs around 210,000 professionals in the area of IT exports, 250,000 personnel in the domestic IT services market and 160,000 people in the ITES-BPO segments, the numbers are expect to jump substantially by 2008 and grow into a vast need by 2012. By 2012, analysts say, India will have a requirement of 4,90,000 professionals in the IT exports market, 1.11 million in the domestic IT industry and a hefty 2.05 million in the ITES-BPO sector. In all, around five million new IT/ITES jobs will be generated over the next eight years (source: NASSCOM-McKinsey 2003 Study/Ministry of CIT Task Force Report).

Skill sets trends: who's needed?
The trends indicate that very specific skill sets will be required by the IT industry over the next eight years. Tomorrow's enterprises, expected to be "completely connected," will need professionals equipped to implement and manage networks. Similarly, security will also become a priority. The impact of the 9/11 acts of terrorism in the US, escalating virus attacks and natural disasters have lead to a more serious consideration of security issues within global organizations. Security has become a matter of boardroom discussion and companies are beginning to invest substantially in securing their vital information assets.

The outcome of these trends is that new job profiles are emerging within the ICT sector. By 2012, the popular IT careers are likely to be those of Citrix Certified enterprise administrators, Sun certified system administrators, Check point security administrators, Cisco certified network professionals, Microsoft certified systems administrators, Certified information systems security professionals and Red hat certified engineers.

The leading technologies available will continue to be the key development platforms. Customers will need increasingly complex and scaleable solutions that offer multi-vendor and cross-platform appeal.

The software development segment will continue to generate a significant number of jobs with a large number of professionals required in various new and emerging segments. The expectation is that by 2007, the ICT industry demand for Java professionals will touch three million.

Some of the other skill sets required will include C# and Visual and people trained in applications development, database management, help desk end-user support, Internet/intranet development, networking, project management, systems/security analysis, database administration, Internet/Web architectures and networking. The bulk of the professionals will be absorbed by the help desk and networking segments (which will account for 28 percent and 23 percent of the available jobs by 2007).

A recent study on IT jobs by India's leading IT association NASSCOM has added further insights on manpower requirements in the future. The surveys indicate that the popular platforms for software development over the next few years will be enterprise software (35.1 percent), .Net/Java/J2ee (22.2 percent), SQL (12.5 percent), Unix (17.7 percent), C ++ (11.4 percent), Cobol/CICS/DB 2 (10.8 percent), CRM (6.7 percent), Business intelligence/data warehousing (6.7 percent), Linux (5.8 percent), EDA/ASIC/ VLSI (5 percent), ASP (4 percent), EAI (2.4 percent) and Content management (1.9 percent).

India's student community needs to pay heed to these market developments and future job trends. A major career opportunity awaits them within the IT/ITES industries. They need to wrest this potential with both hands and gear up for what lies ahead.