Where are Washington’s talent shortages?


Corporate tax managers are in high demand in the Washington area. (David Acker/Bloomberg)

The hiring market is far from sunny, but there are still jobs employers in the Washington area have a hard time filling. Paul Villella, chief executive of the staffing services firm HireStrategy, said a couple themes connect them. First, whenever new technologies become popular, employers quickly need people to implement and manage them even if very few people have the adequate training. Secondly, they probably aren’t the jobs that people dreamed of when they were youngsters. “They’re not very sexy jobs, and kids today want very sexy, so maybe [they] don’t get the most attention in college or school,” Villella said.

Here are the top five jobs he says Washington employers are struggling to fill right now.

Contract and subcontract managers

This became an area of need when the federal stimulus law passed and agencies needed to push millions of dollars in grants and loans out the door but lacked the needed personnel. Since then the need has continued. “It’s a very specialized and narrow area, where you’re not an attorney but you have a high degree of knowledge about contractual terms,” Villella said. The tough part for aspiring contract personnel? Because of the competitive and legal nature of contracts, employers put a premium on experience, sometimes begging retirees to return to the workforce rather than hire someone green.

“Nobody wants someone who is just learning this to join them,” Villella said.

Cloud computing

Companies, nonprofit organizations and government agencies are all moving their computer systems to the cloud — i.e. Web-based computing — but many of them lack the expertise to do so.

“Really, primarily the system engineers and the architects,” are what’s needed, Villella said. “These are people who are going in and devising cloud computing plans and then architecting how they would work. And then the systems engineers are the ones who would deploy it.” He says that for every 20 cloud-related hiring requirements in the Washington area, there might be just three people available, and employers are open to hiring people with a year or less experience. “In our technology group that’s as hot as it gets,” he said

Java developers

Expertise in the Java programming language has long been a need in Washington. As the area’s tech sector expands and Java evolves, that need persists, Villella said.

“There’s all kinds of versions of Java … but for the more contemporary versions there is just a very big supply-demand imbalance,” he said.

Tax managers

Consulting companies are always in search of certified public accountants, Villella said, but there is an ongoing need for tax managers, people who can manage companies’ fiscal policies as they relate to taxes.

For people who are interested, Villella said, “you’re going to have a lot of opportunities.”

“This is not a 2012 trend, this is as long as I’ve been in the business — 20 years this has been a shortage.”

SharePoint architects

The use of Microsoft SharePoint collaborative software is growing in popularity at corporations and large companies and, like cloud computing, there is a need for people who know how to implement it.

“You have to understand the architecture — that’s really the key for a company, setting it up and keeping it going,” Villella said.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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