IBM Laying Off Thousands of Workers and Hiring Thousands More. Is This the Future of Technology Jobs?

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Posted By Terri Williams on June 13, 2016 at 3:43 pm
IBM Laying Off Thousands of Workers and Hiring Thousands More. Is This the Future of Technology Jobs?

IT is viewed as one of the fields with the most promising employment for coming years.  In fact, a new report by U.S. News/Raytheon reveals that America will soon need foreign labor to fill technology jobs – and the greatest need is for computer science professionals.

And yet, as companies scramble to remain competitive, even workers with IT-related degrees are as likely to be fired as they are to be hired. According to a recent CNN report, although IBM is in the process of laying off thousands of workers, the company also plans to hire up to 20,000 new workers.

Business Insider reports that in 2015 alone, over 70,000 IBM employers worldwide were either victims of attrition or layouts, or they retired or quit. However, during the same time frame, the company also added approximately 70,000 new employees.

The total numbers for 2016 are difficult to nail down because IBM stopped releasing employment information on U.S. workers. However, some analysts expect that up to 14,000 employees will receive a pink slip this year. Meanwhile, IBM has confirmed that it currently has at least 25,000 job openings.

Some critics have accused IBM of age discrimination, while others claim that many workers in higher-cost countries are being laid off so the company can hire employees in lower-cost countries.

For instance, the New York Post reported in 2013 that IBM had more workers in India than in the U.S. The news outlet also explained that while a senior IT specialist commands $100,000 a year in the U.S., the average IBM worker in India earns $17,000 annually.

But could there be another explanation for IBM’s workplace volatility?

According to CNN, the company is making the shift from software and services to the cloud, and some of the jobs being eliminated are in the Systems and Technology Division. Meanwhile, IBM is hiring new workers with skills in big data analytics, cloud, nanotechnology, security, and mobile technologies.

And a focus on cloud and mobile technologies can have a profound impact on the company’s workforce. Trip Chowdhry, co-founder and analyst at Global Equities Research, notes that with cloud services, there’s a decreased need for hardware, manpower, and integrated technology. And this could reduce the demand for computer hardware engineers, network and computer systems administrators, computer programmers, and other types of traditional workers.

Wave of the future or blast from the past?

But IBM isn’t the only IT company laying off workers. Chowdhry predicts massive layoffs at other well-known companies as well, including Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco, VMWare, Symantec and ECM.

So – is this the wave of the future? If so, how can college students who pursue a career in technology ensure career longevity and avoid becoming a statistic?

Billie G. Blair, PhD, President and CEO of Change Strategists, Inc., tell GoodCall that what IBM is doing is not rare at all. Her organization routinely works with other Fortune 500 companies when they reorganize their workforce.

“Once the new directions for the future of the company have been determined (through a process that we call ‘Strategy Systems Building,’ that sets out the direction for the future, based on past efforts of the company and future needs for performance), we assist the corporation in looking carefully at all employees; determining potential and ‘fit’ for those new directions; and assessing potential for upgrading skills for all employees,” she says.

Then, Blair says organizations like Change Strategists help their clients find the additional employees they need. She notes that often, these new employees are better suited to help the company reach its new goals because they have the desired training and skill sets.

“This is the process that IBM is currently going through – shifting from software and services to the cloud requires hiring people with very different skills,” says Blair, who adds that we can expect more IT companies to follow suit.

“I remember when Louis Gerstner was making a wrenching change from the old, mainframe-based IBM to the one that presently exists – and this is simply the next iteration, 20 years later,” she argues.

For college students who are interested in similar fields, Blair advises them to develop a variety of skills, keep those skills current, and stay abreast of the latest technological changes: “It’s not at all unusual for companies to have to reinvent themselves every 20 years – in fact, for multinational corporations, that’s about the right time sequence between ‘versions,’ – it takes a while to turn those ‘battleships’ around!”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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