John Oglesby is forever on the lookout for new talent. As director of IT strategy at ACH Food Cos.--the maker of Mazola corn oil, Karo corn syrup and Argo corn starch--Oglesby needs experts in SAP technicality and functionality to come on board permanently to help install, and later maintain, his company's new ERP system.
That shouldn't be too hard, given the down economy and the complaints from the field of IT workers that there aren't enough jobs. Yet Oglesby has struggled to fill spots on his team, even holding a position open for more than five months while he searched for the right person. Well into the implementation, Oglesby believes or hopes he may have finally found someone who fits the position.
Certainly, Oglesby fields dozens of resumes for every job he posts, but few applicants are even worth calling in for an interview. First, about 85 percent of the resumes are from foreigners, half of whom come with the added burden of needing sponsorship. Many struggle to speak English. Second, many of the resumes are fabricated to embellish experience. Applicants are often eager to tout others' accomplishments as their own--like the applicant who claimed experience in creating special user exits, when in fact he was only part of a team that had done so and was never personally involved in the task. "When we talk to the candidate, it's obvious they know nothing about it," Oglesby says.
When a candidate comes to the table with SAP experience, it's often siloed in a specific area, like order management, rather than the expertise Oglesby needs in areas such as invoicing or cash applications. ACH uses recruiters, but they often don't know much about SAP either and are poorly positioned to screen candidates. In the end, most of the hiring process is composed of time-consuming tasks like weeding out resumes and phone screening before he can finally bring a promising candidate in for an interview, and eventually make the hire.
Oglesby, as a leader of the Society of Information Management's effort to increase the future labor pool, launched a Teen Tech Camp in ACH's hometown of Memphis to recruit kids as young as high school age into the IT field before they choose their college or major. His biggest concern: The decline in technologists entering the workforce in the past decade means that somewhere down the line there will be a shortage of experienced technologists able to serve as leaders and executives.
What's more, businesses still rely on legacy technologies that are not yet obsolete, but are no longer being taught in schools. Baby boomers know the technical details inside of IT, but languages like Cobol and Fortran that are still in use are unknown by the younger workforce. "At some point, companies may face catastrophic system failures with little ability to deal with it, unless they wholesale replace their older systems with newer technology," Oglesby says.
While companies may do some replacements, the problem is too costly and has low visibility, so such projects are easily pushed to the back burner. "We don't pay any attention to the 10-cent ball bearing that keeps a wheel turning until it fails," Oglesby says. "Then, where do we find that ball bearing and the person who knows how to replace it?"