Programming: A highly sought talent in Silicon Valley

Employees working inside the French IT company Linkbynet in Ho Chi Minh City’s ‘Silicon Valley’ September 5, 2016. AFP
Employees working inside the French IT company Linkbynet in Ho Chi Minh City’s ‘Silicon Valley’ September 5, 2016. AFP

SAN FRANCISCO, April 11 — Computer engineers are in high demand, with companies shelling out huge salaries for the best talent — especially in California’s Silicon Valley.

Talent shortage

According to nonprofit organization code.org, which works to increase representation in computer science, there are more than 520,000 vacancies in the field — about 10 times more than the annual number of qualified graduates.

Meanwhile, labor market analysis firm Burningglass calculated that out of 26 million jobs posted online in 2015, seven million asked for some form of programming skills — without necessarily requiring higher education or a computer science qualification.

A shortage of qualified candidates makes competition for talent fierce — pushing up salaries.

As a result, it’s in the interests of tech companies to back efforts to promote computer science education for younger children.

Companies also often recruit from abroad — from Asia in particular — to fill positions putting them at odds with the anti-immigration politics of the Trump administration. 

Sky-high salaries 

On average, a computer science graduate earns at least US$90,000 to US$100,000 (RM348,120 to RM386,800) a year in the United States.

Code.org says that’s an average of 40 per cent more than peers with degrees in other fields.

Even roles calling for simple programming skills are paid on average 35 per cent more than jobs that don’t, according to Burningglass.

Training courses

Aspiring software engineers have plenty of training options to choose from — both in the classroom and online.

University studies generally entail four years and stratospheric tuition fees — US$10,000 to US$20,000 a year for a public school, or US$50,000 a year for a private institution such as Stanford in California.

Factor in housing, meals and books, and the bill shoots up to US$70,000 a year, according to the California Institute of Technology (CalTech’s) estimates for the 2018-19 academic year.

If students aren’t able to secure scholarships, many in the United States are forced to rely on loans to fund their studies.

On the other hand, “bootcamp” programming courses tend to last a few weeks, targeting beginners or people who want to update their skills.

Increasingly popular over the past five years, some are tailored to particular groups such as women, children or minorities.

The Flatiron School, which has locations in New York, Washington and London, offers 15 weeks for US$15,000.

Diversity problem

According to official US statistics cited by the Center for American Progress, among Silicon Valley computer programmemers in 2015, just 2.2 per cent were black and 4.7 per cent Hispanic.

A 2016 study by Accenture for the organization Girls Who Code showed that 24 per cent of IT jobs were filled by women — and women made up just 18 per cent of computer science students.

At Google, the company says 69 per cent of its global employees are men — a figure that rises to 80 per cent when taking only tech roles into account.

And in the US generally, 53 per cent of tech workers identify as white, compared to 39 per cent Asian, one per cent black and three per cent Hispanic. — AFP

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