Where are the IT specialists we need to change our ambitions to reality, while waiting for the future?

19. May 2017

In the spring, I participated at the Danish ITC Industry Association at their yearly meeting along with 200 people. At the meeting, we gave our input to how Denmark should be a first-mover and lift our nation to become a nation of digital creators. The outcome was written in the manifest “Denmark as a digital society”.

Every fourth IT business turns down orders

The manifest points out that the overall biggest challenge for our future is the lack of talent and people with the right IT competences. Prognoses reveal that Denmark will lack 19,000 IT specialists in 2030. So far, more than every fourth IT business has turned down orders, simply because they are unable to find the right people to solve the tasks.
I was at a European conference called “Connecting Healthcare IT” in Berlin in April. I happened to meet an old classmate from the university. We had a nice chat about the good old days and we quickly got updated on the present and our current jobs. Henrik has his own IT business and is about to start up a cooperation with a large client. However, he takes the risk of being yet another Danish business, who has to turn down the order because he cannot find the people to solve the tasks for this order.

Running against the clock – and we are already behind

Therefore, businesses are starting to feel the pain – even though we are not in 2030. It hurts now – and we cannot wait until the next generation has been introduced to the digital world and all its possibilities through elementary school and the university, while we try to get by and fill every 19.000 IT specialists positions towards 2030.
The manifest reveals that it is not enough to educate more people with the IT sector, to meet the demand for IT specialists. Therefore, Denmark has to be among the top five countries to attract digital talents by promoting Denmark heavily and improve the conditions for foreign workers.

You can’t just relocate people

Even though the politicians manage to setup attractive working conditions for foreign workers, so we can attract the right IT competences, the question is still – will they move to Denmark? Who are the right IT competences? It is people like you and I, people with a family and a daily life, where everyone has to thrive. What would it take for you to move your daily life and your family to a foreign country? You might not just look at the job, you evaluate the entire package. And let’s be honest – the package Denmark has to offer foreigners are just not good enough.
It is my firm belief that you cannot just relocate people. It is easy for the government to calculate the benefits for a foreign worker in a spreadsheet in a report with economic models – but not in reality. The Danes suffer for a mentality, where we think that if only we make the working conditions attractive for foreigners, they will line up to get in. But they will not come, because Denmark is not as attractive as we think.

The needed IT competences can be found

It is not enough to relocate people to solve the problem. We also have to move every task. We live in a global world, but somehow we mostly think of globalization as relocation of people and workplaces. How can we attract IT competences, how can we protect our workplaces, how can we ensure that the tasks are solved in Denmark? However, as the Danish ICT Industry Association points out, and as Henrik experiences, the calculation does not add up. The single most important parameter is that the task is solved – either in Denmark or abroad – otherwise, we have other problems long before 2030.
We ask the wrong question, when we only look for IT competences in Denmark and our focus is on how to make the workforce mobile, so they can move to the location of the tasks (Denmark). Instead, we should ask how we ensure that all tasks are solved and how we move the tasks to the location of the workforce.
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