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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, September 18, 2012

ACM CareerNews is intended as an objective career news digest for busy IT professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of ACM. To send comments, please write to careernews@hq.acm.org

Volume 8, Issue 18, September 18, 2012




Math, Science, and Computer Students: The Energy Sector Wants You
U.S. News & World Report, September 10

As the energy sector continues to embrace technology to streamline its operations, it is leading to a sharp increase in new job opportunities for recent college graduates with a background in math, science and computer science. New innovations like smart grids, wireless sensors and predictive intelligence are transforming the job profiles at public utilities and oil and gas companies. As a result, college grads with technical and advanced degrees will be needed to fill relatively high-paying positions as engineers, scientists, and technicians. In fact, over the next decade, the energy sector could become a large driver of job growth in the U.S., especially with a greater willingness to explore alternative energy solutions.

Much of the job creation in the energy sector will be driven by domestic production of shale. These underground deposits of oil and natural gas are found in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, as well as in North Dakota. Job-growth projections from 2010 to 2020 released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics present a mixed view of the energy sector. The BLS foresees an increase of 23,000 oil and gas extraction jobs over the next decade, largely due to the rise in shale production, but a decrease of 47,000 jobs with electric power and natural gas utilities. Skills for energy jobs of the future will vary widely, from high school diplomas to two- or four-year college educations to advanced degrees, depending on the level of expertise required.


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IT Employment Continues to Gain
Computerworld, September 7

Based on the latest data from the U.S. Labor Department, IT hiring continues to gain momentum, with signs emerging that high demand exists for people to fill jobs in specific IT occupations. Even research groups that tend to arrive at different opinions and viewpoints about U.S. employment data for the tech sector agree on the large macro-trend: IT hiring is up across the nation. While the month-over-month rate of growth is not quite as robust as it was earlier in the year, IT employment overall remains strong. From July to August, the number of IT jobs increased by 5,100 - bringing overall IT employment to almost 4.2 million.

Janco Associates, a research and consulting firm, counted a month-to-month increase of 12,400 IT jobs -- a figure that represents nearly 13% of the 96,000 jobs the Labor Department says were added overall in the U.S. in August. In its report, TechServe Alliance included unpublished Labor Department unemployment data for some specific job categories. For instance, from the first quarter to the second quarter of this year, the unemployment rate of computer hardware engineers went from 4.4% to 0.5%. For software developers, the unemployment rate shrank from 3.6% to 2.5% over the same period.


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Jobs Fight: Haves vs. the Have-Nots
USA Today, September 14

Venture capitalist and entrepreneur Marc Andreessen weighs in on the future of work, suggesting that knowledge of computer programming will become one of the most important skills in the modern workplace. Over the next 30 years, the spread of computers and the Internet will put jobs in two categories, Andreessen says: "People who tell computers what to do, and people who are told by computers what to do." Success in the future economy also requires big changes in education -- both in how society provides schooling and in how young people should consume it. It's extremely positive for the people who have the ability to project what they do globally.

In the decades to come, VCs will change how they go about creating jobs, and people will change how they pursue work, Andreessen says. Globalization already has helped push down wages for people with routine skills, even as incomes at the top have skyrocketed. Expect this gap to widen, since people with unusual gifts will find it ever easier to project them worldwide and get wildly compensated. People who take orders from computers won't. As Andreessen points out, the middle class is vanishing, and a liberal arts education no longer has the value it once had. The resulting income inequality will only place more pressure on workers to boost their tech skills and showcase their technical education.


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Breaking Tech’s Code
Wall Street Journal, August 17

In New York City, new introductory programming courses that lead to immediate job opportunities - even for candidates with no previous experience - are helping to fill the local shortage of engineers and fuel the city’s technology boom. General Assembly, Codecademy and the Hatchery have designed introductory programming courses for computer science novices hopeful of changing careers to the tech sector. For the New York tech sector, the classes are a way to help fill the local shortage of engineers while the city works on longer-term solutions to build a talent pipeline for new tech start-ups. As experts point out, if New York is going to have a sustainable tech sector, it is has to be able to produce more homegrown tech talent.

These programming classes could lead to the democratization of coding. The classes offered by private educators draw everyone from Wall Street veterans to bartenders with an entrepreneurial streak. The classes aim to teach anyone and everyone to code. However, completing a class is not the equivalent of getting a computer-science degree. And graduates of classes tailored to the nonprogrammer—which range anywhere from a single evening to four months in duration—are unlikely to land a coveted job at a large employer like Google or Facebook. Obviously, you have to have a lot of experience and education to go to those top companies, but there are a lot of regular start-ups all over New York.


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Tech Jobs Are All Across America
CCC Blog, August 31

According to the latest report from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute (BACEI), high tech employment appears to be growing across the nation, not just in Silicon Valley. The report, which integrates data from multiple sources, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, presents a revealing county-by-county portrait illustrating where within the U.S. high-tech jobs are found. In many communities far from Silicon Valley, there have recently been increases of more than 10% in high-tech employment.

The BACEI highlighted several takeaways in its report. For example, since the dot-com bust, jobs in the high-tech sector have performed better than for the private sector as a whole. A minimum of 61% of counties had at least some high-tech jobs in 2011 — data limitations prevent a truer and larger estimate because data are suppressed in sparsely populated counties to protect the identity of individual companies. Also, estimates for many counties are not available.


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Fifteen LinkedIn Tips to Improve Your Job Search
CIO.com, September 11

LinkedIn continues to be an invaluable social network for IT job hunters, making it imperative that candidates understand how to optimize their personal profile. Recruiters now use LinkedIn to find the right candidate with the perfect mix of skills. Having the right LinkedIn profile can boost your visibility, improve your overall Web presence and strengthen your professional brand. Consider it your online resume, but with a healthy splash of personality that highlights your uniqueness to recruiters. Using LinkedIn strategically can help give you an edge over your competition. With that in mind, the article highlights a number of tips to help you get the most out of your LinkedIn experience.

When you make a change to your LinkedIn profile, such as adding a past work experience, LinkedIn broadcasts this activity to your connections' streams. If you don't want people to see that you are updating your profile, you need to temporarily shut off this feature. Next, consider adding keywords to your profile since recruiters, employers and school admissions officers search through LinkedIn and other career sites using keywords to target potential hires or students. That's why keywords are important throughout your entire profile, but especially in the "specialties" section. Recruiters and employers regularly look through LinkedIn to find candidates and a professional picture sets the right tone. Find the most professional looking picture of you and crop it to a headshot.


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IT Career Mapping Done Right
Computerworld, September 4

The career map – which takes all of an employee’s talents, interests and goals and matches them against opportunities within an organization – is emerging as a new way for IT professionals to determine the appropriate next step in their careers. In addition, the career map can assist in planning the next steps the employee should take to reach that target position. Career mapping is of particular interest to larger organizations that are seeking to institutionalize their career-management programs, enhance their workforce development and succession planning strategies, and cut down on costly employee turnover. Smaller companies are less likely to have formal career-mapping programs simply because they have fewer internal opportunities to track.

Companies generally have compiled some of the pieces required for a career map -- usually lists of organizational positions and the competencies required for each one, plus resumes for individual workers. But up until now, few organizations have put together all of the pieces -- the lists of jobs and resumes plus other information, such as employees' newly acquired skills or up-to-date career aspirations -- to create a view of potential career progression based on skills, competencies and goals. According to experts, a career map can include some or all of the following elements: the matching of job titles to competencies, a list of aspirations, a skills-gap analysis, a plan to add competencies, a target list of companies and positions to research and follow, and specific networking goals.


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IT Certifications That Mean Higher Pay
CIO.com, September 6

Certifications not only show the IT industry employers, peers and recruiters that you are up to date and knowledgeable on a given topic – they also can lead to increased earnings. Based on the results from the latest quarterly IT Skills Demand and Pay Trends Report, it’s possible to see which of the many IT certifications out there can lead to higher pay. With more and more companies holding out for the IT pro who has the perfect skills, candidates who possess these certifications are getting paid a premium over what others in the same role without the certification are receiving. Additional monetary compensation tied specifically to an IT certification can range from 8% to 16%, depending on employer need and marketplace trends.

The certifications in the first category come with a premium skills pay of 8-13% of base salary. Many of these certifications fall into the intermediate range and are accessible to the average IT person. These include a mix of security certifications, such as Red Hat Certified Architect, and Architecture/Project Management/Process Certifications, such as Microsoft Certified Architect. They also include several Database Certifications; Networking and Communications Certifications (e.g. Cisco Certified Design Professional); and Systems Administration & Engineering Certifications.


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Scaling K-12 Computer Science Education
Blog @ CACM, September 11

With seed funding from Google and additional support from Microsoft, ACM is launching a major new project in partnership with the National Science Foundation, Google, Microsoft, the Computer Science Teachers Association and the National Center for Women and Information Technology to take the next steps toward scaling K-12 computer science education reform efforts. Scalability is a critical issue for the computing community, with the new AP Computer Science Course (CS Principles) course being piloted and numerous other curriculum and policy reform efforts underway. Ensuring widespread access to high-quality K-12 computer science education is a challenge that will require answering key questions, such as how best to directly engage with states, school districts and teachers.

To better understand the answers to questions about scaling computer science education, the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute (UEI) and the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE) are carrying out an 18-month study for ACM’s partnership. The project has four parts: understand and document the landscape of current K-12 computer science teacher professional development; identify the community’s capacity for both serving current computer science teachers and attracting new teachers to the discipline; understand the professional development and institutional supports needed to both attract new and retain teachers in computer science; and work closely with PD providers to identify and develop models and best practices for computer science professional development that attract, retrain and expand the ranks of K-12 computer science educators.


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USACM Expresses Concerns Over Support For Scientific And Technical Conferences
ACM Public Policy Blog, September 11

In a letter to key members of Congress and officials within the Obama Administration, USACM has warned that proposed restrictions on travel and conference expenses could curtail the ability of government scientists and engineers to interact with other members of their professional communities. The letter, written in coordination with the Computing Research Association, the IEEE-USA and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, is meant to head off potential legislation that would restrict conference and travel spending across the government. As USACM explains, the legislation, as currently written, would have other unintended consequences for scientific, technical and education meetings.

Interactions at professional conferences are an important part of the work of any scientists or engineer. The meetings are a means for researchers to stay current in their field and maintain professional contacts. Additionally, these conferences can provide opportunities for government scientists and engineers to support the missions of their agencies. They can monitor government funded research, identify areas for possible future government support, identify potential recruits for government positions, and otherwise make sure government has access to the best information and best people.


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