Weekly Roundup: Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security Expanding IT Workforces

The first days of the new year have been full of tech news for the consumer, not only about the much-anticipated Verizon iPhone but also about the latest wave of converged products announced at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, where perennial platitudes like “sexy sells” and “the PC is dead” were tossed around once again.

Back at work, the employment numbers for December continued to show positive growth in the tech sector. Overall tech employment climbed 2.61 percent last year, bringing the size of the IT workforce up to 3.9 million, close to its peak of 4 million two years ago. Foote Associates, a workforce analyst firm, calculated a net gain of 9,600 IT-related jobs in December, mostly in management and technical consulting services and computer system design and related services.

Many of those 3.9 million workers are employed by the government. They felt a chill this week when they learned a new bill spearheaded by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), would freeze pay civilian government employees for three years, and trim the federal workforce by 10 percent over the next decade.

Nevertheless, IT workers may find jobs with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), which is expanding from 1,500 employees to a projected 2,500 employees by the end of fiscal 2011. And the Department of Veterans Affairs hopes to hire 705 IT pros by the end of April.

The private sector is looking a bit more bubbly. There’s continuing talk about huge valuations (Facebook and Groupon, to name two) and a new wave of IPOs. In Silicon Valley, 15 companies backed by venture capital went public last year, up from two in 2009 and only one in 2008. The companies raised nearly $1.3 billion in IPO proceeds, up from just $103.7 million in 2009.

On the other coast, popular blogging platform Tumblr, which is based in New York, announced a plan to open a satellite office in Richmond, Va., to go along with its recent $30 million venture funding round. Most jobs will be related to software development.

All the recent talk of IT careers may ultimately be moot. Forrester Research’s new IT’s Future in the Empowered Era says “Sweeping changes in the business landscape will topple the IT status quo.” It adds: “Technologies that are increasingly easy to acquire and use will empower business self-sufficiency. Tech-savvy business managers and staff will provision their own technology solutions. Huge changes in the business landscape will up the ante for speed and agility. The IT status quo will collapse under these forces, and a new model, empowered Business Technology, will take its place.” Forrester’s prediction: It’ll all going happen in the next nine years.

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