Information technology workers will continue to be in high demand in the Omaha area into 2016, a new survey of employers found.
AIM, the Omaha-based nonprofit that promotes technology careers and education, said 154 firms responding to an October phone and email survey said they anticipate hiring a collective 1,400 IT professionals and 300 engineering professionals in the next two years.
While that’s fewer total hires in those fields than the firms reported making in the last two years, it still shows strong demand, especially in IT, said Levi Thiele, AIM’s research director. The firms that responded represent just 7 percent of firms contacted, and based on their size, Thiele projects actual hiring demand of 2,000 to 3,000.
“IT is definitely a growing field and that’s not just in Omaha,” said Thiele. “Our local IT demand is really matching what we’re seeing at the national level.”
Demand for engineers was not as high as she expected relative to demand for IT workers, but still shows that more engineers are needed in the area, including engineers with better IT and technical skills.
The study, the first of its kind locally, was commissioned by the University of Nebraska system as a way to gauge demand for graduates. AIM researchers collaborated with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the MSR Group.
The study did not compare demand against projected numbers of college graduates, an area that Thiele said will require further research.
Businesses surveyed indicated a demand for graduates with advanced training. More than half of the new engineering hires will need to have graduate degrees, employers said, and almost three in four IT hires will need a master’s degree or better.
Companies reported they are largely satisfied with the quality of graduates from both the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Companies said they consider more than four in five hires from those schools to be of “excellent” or “good” quality.
But they noted areas of weakness, saying some new hires lacked technical skills and specialized engineering skills. Others lacked face-to-face communication skills. “They need to be comfortable speaking to people,” one employer noted.
One employer called for IT programs to include business training, and others need workers with specific skills within IT, such as Microsoft .NET software developers.
That’s another area where Thiele would like to conduct further research, taking a look at what skills will be needed within the IT field, and where the gaps are.
“IT is a very broad field,” she said.
The study was “reassuring” to Hesham Ali, dean of UNO’s College of Information Science & Technology. The college is striving to expand enrollment by 50 percent to 1,500 over the next five years, and also has added several new IT degrees in recent years.
Ali said the group of industry professionals who advise the college have urged expansion, and the study revealed “that what we were hoping to be true all along turned out to be actually true.”
He said the clear demand for graduate-level hires may encourage more students to take advantage of a school program that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees together in five years. “That will help us to push for our students to stick around,” he said.