COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

Tech salaries are up but skilled workers are elusive

It’s a good news and bad news story. A new report shows technology salaries and bonuses are rising in San Diego and other regions as the population of skilled workers continues to shrink.

According to the 2014 Dice Salary Survey, technology professionals earned $89,450 on average last year, up 2 percent from 2013. Most increases were the result of merit raises, but 25 percent of skilled workers said they benefited by changing employers.

“As demand for technology professionals rise and highly-skilled talent is harder to find, the pressure is being reflected where it counts: paychecks,” said Shravan Goli, president of Dice.com.

San Diego ranked number nine on the Dice list of tech professional salaries with an average earning of $94,121, up 4 percent from 2013.

Thanks to big salaries in Silicon Valley ($112,610) and Seattle ($99,423), the Pacific region saw the biggest increase in compensation for the year. In California alone, tech salaries reached $102,950, the first state to ever report average pay in six figures.

However, ask just about any company in San Diego with the “help wanted” sign hanging out and they will tell you the biggest challenge is finding skilled workers to fill those positions.

“While education and training institutions in San Diego have the capacity to train future workers for this industry sector, the majority of employers reported having difficulty finding qualified workers. Most employers have difficulty finding qualified candidates for computer numerically controlled machine tool programmers, mechanical engineers and machinists,” according to a report from the San Diego Workforce Partnership.

Tech professionals currently employed are in a good position. The Dice survey found 67 percent believe they can find a favorable new position in the year ahead and 37 percent anticipate changing employers for better pay or better conditions. This situation puts pressure on companies to make new hires, train them, and offer benefits to keep them on staff.

Going abroad to find new tech employees is a limited proposition.

“In April, for the second year in a row, the government reached its current H-1B quota just five days after it began accepting applications. Employers submitted 172,500 petitions for just 85,000 available visas. American companies were thus unable to hire nearly 90,000 high-skilled workers they need to help grow their domestic businesses, develop innovative technologies, and compete with international competitors,” said Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

As new technologies are developed, so is the demand for skilled workers.

“Cloud is not new to the tech world but as more companies, large and small, adopt the technology, tech professionals with this experience will enjoy opportunities. Tech professionals who analyze and mine information in a way that makes an impact on overall business goals have proven to be incredibly valuable to companies. The proof is in the pay,” said Goli of Dice.

Developing homegrown STEM workers -- specializing in science, technology, engineering and math -- will be the key to providing the technology workforce of the future.

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1 UserComments
R Lawson 3:54pm January 23, 2015

Are those numbers adjusted for inflation? If not, it's another flat year.