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Is edtech growing faster than its labor pool?

There aren’t enough workers to fill IT labor market openings—that’s a problem.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

IT job seekers, go back to school. The edtech field is growing—and adding to an already competitive tech labor market.

Edtech went from an essential tool for teachers to the primary way of reaching students during school shutdowns during the pandemic, and the sector shows no sign of slowing even as Covid restrictions recede. Schools are increasingly reliant on tech solutions for information and data storage, classes are remote or hybrid, and school servers storing sensitive information require reliable security.

School districts are facing the same challenges as most institutions and companies looking to hire tech workers—a tight job market where big companies can outspend the competition to ensure they retain workers. And with budget or union constraints on jobs and what they can pay, districts can be at a disadvantage in hiring and retaining talent.

"No matter how you look at it...IT professionals are in huge demand. Not nearly enough of them are on the market,” analyst and consultant Ethan Banks told IT Brew. “And every company is struggling to both find people to fill positions and then retain the people that they have.”

With school systems around the US using thousands of apps to facilitate learning (the average student uses around 72 apps, according to a study from Lightspeed Systems), the potential for disruption if something goes wrong—internally or externally—is increasing. But most districts lack funding resources to hire the right people to manage the systems.

Research from the State Educational Technology Directors Association shows that many schools are by and large deprioritizing cybersecurity and other tech solutions; as many as 70% of reporting agencies and schools have reported being hacked.

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Perfect circle. The tight labor pool comes as edtech is seeing unprecedented growth, which analysts at Research and Markets predict will explode from a 2021 valuation of $254.8 billion to $605.4 billion in 2027. That’s an annual growth rate of over 15.5%.

Edtech labor demand remains high. Job boards like the one at EdSurge show hundreds of unfilled positions. Districts can use consulting firms to make up the difference, but that simply outsources the problem, as those companies struggle to keep up with the billable hours they’ve committed to their clients due to the labor crunch.

Thus, schools—as well as businesses and other institutions—need to rethink their hiring practices, Todd Richmond, director of the Tech & Narrative Lab and a professor at the Pardee Rand Graduate School, told IT Brew. To start, they need governmental action to ease the labor shortfall.

“The country needs to rethink its H-1B visa program,” Richmond said. “Because we’ve historically used that as a way to bring talent in for shortfalls.”

Marlo Barnett, district library media coordinator for Calumet Public School District in Chicago, told IT Brew that the industry needs to look to the schools to find workers.

“As more students continue to graduate and hit the college level, they are educated about tech, and then they pursue careers in tech,” Barnett said. “And then they come back and can show other students through mentorship, through being an educator themselves, about the different technology careers.”—EH

Do you work in IT or have information about your IT department you want to share? Email [email protected] or DM @EoinHiggins_ on Twitter.

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to software development and gaming. Our IT Brew newsletter delivers the latest news and analysis of trends shaping the IT industry, like only The Brew can.