At the onset of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of workers in the higher education sectors lost their jobs. At the peak (in 2020), colleges and universities shed more than 300,000 positions. Today, employment in the sector is on the rise again. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, higher education institutions now employ just 40,000 fewer people than they did pre-pandemic. Workers in higher education IT largely missed layoffs, thanks to the quick shift to online course delivery and online work.
The sector has made up nearly 87% of the jobs it shed initially. But certain jobs in higher education remain stubbornly hard to fill. Food service workers are highly prized and in short supply. Also exiting the payroll are an increasing number of higher education IT workers.
Analysts are not yet ready to term it a “mass exodus,” but recent surveys of the higher education IT workers show increasing burn-out. Much of the burden of moving institutions to online delivery fell to IT staffs who were already overworked -and in many cases – underpaid.
Two years down the road, the same IT workers are among those choosing to walk away. According to a poll conducted by Educause, one-third of campus workers said they have their eye on the door. Seventeen percent said they intend to retire soon, and another two percent said they’ve already found work elsewhere. If you’re counting, more than half of higher education employees are thinking about or planning to leave their jobs or they already have.
Retirement of the current cohort of IT workers will do two things: first, it will open positions – lots of them. Second, it will compound the difficulty in finding new talent. Higher education institutions rely heavily on their IT staffs, and finding replacements may become increasingly more difficult.
Higher education IT staffs are hitting the road
Ordinarily, higher education workers leave one institution to work for another one. Right now, certain workers – especially those in IT-based roles – are simply leaving higher education altogether. According to the Educause analysis, IT workers bailed out their institutions during the pandemic, but the institutions didn’t respond with better pay, better hours or better working conditions. Private sector employers can offer all three, and workers are taking them up on their offers.
Miami University in Miami, OH reports that it’s currently combating an 11.5% vacancy rate in its IT Department. Worse, each posted position fields only about half of the applicants the school normally receives. Most at risk of leaving? Experienced employees who aren’t ready to retire, but have simply had enough.
According to a Motion Recruitment study released late last year of IT salaries, the demand for experienced technologists is driving a significant boost in pay. In 2021, IT salaries increased by nearly 10%. Better still, the sector saw a more than 350% increase in the number of fully remote IT jobs. That means workers can live where they want, while having more flexibility about their work situation.
That’s very bad news for employers hoping to low-ball their tech staffs. The Motion Recruitment study showed that three out of four tech workers were seriously considering saying goodbye to their current employers. The firm suggested that companies that rely heavily on their technologists should plan to re-evaluate salary schedules, benefits, and flexibility in scheduling and work locations if they want to hang on to their staffs.
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