It’s where the jobs are

The following article also appeared as an op-ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen on December 16, 2004.

By Samy Mahmoud,
Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Design

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job as Dean is the opportunity to meet prospective students and their parents on many occasions throughout the academic year. As they approach the decision on selecting a university program best suited for their interests and talents, students are keen to learn more about the employment opportunities that await them once they complete their degree. In addressing this important question, we need not only to examine current employment trends, but look at future developments that will affect the employment market four years from the date they start their university studies.

The downturn of the economy at the beginning of this decade raised questions for prospective students with regard to job prospects and market demand for engineers and other computer specialists working in the information technology sector. The good news is there is growing evidence that the IT industry is in an upswing. On December 8, the Citizen carried a story about a local investor who, based on his own economic model, concluded that Ottawa’s technology sector is on the cusp of a revival. Recent reports indicate that many companies in this sector are growing and hiring and that venture capital investments in start-up companies are on the rise. Readers of career opportunities sections in many newspapers will notice an abundant number of ads by companies looking for computer systems analysts, database administrators, computer scientists, network managers, electronic designers, aerospace and telecommunications engineers, and a wide range of other computer specialists. As well, information technology specialists figure constantly among the top 10 professions in future demand as forecast by leading economic research organizations. After all, every organization depends on information systems in running their operations.

Another indicator is that co-op placement rates for students in information technology programs at Carleton and other leading academic institutions in engineering, computer science, and business over the next year are close to 100 percent. This bodes well for graduates entering the job market in the coming years since high levels of co-op placements usually precede a strong hiring cycle of university graduates by industry.

This positive trend is confirmed by a recent major report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S.). The report provided an upbeat assessment of the outlook for information technology jobs based on a detailed analysis of market demand for information technology products and services. The report states: “Computer systems analysts, database administrators, and computer scientists are expected to be among the fastest growing occupations through 2012. Employment of these computer specialists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations as organizations continue to adopt and integrate increasingly sophisticated technologies….Moreover, falling prices of computer hardware and software should continue to induce more businesses to expand their computerized operations and integrate new technologies into them.”

Students who enter university programs in information technology today and in future years will be graduating into a market that has an insatiable appetite for their talents and energies. They can fully expect well paying and interesting jobs as well as exciting and rewarding careers.

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