Shawn Wright| Crain’s Talent Report

As the world continues to become more digitally connected, the demand for qualified employees in Michigan’s information technology sector will increase this year.

“IT, in many ways, is the foundation for a lot of businesses,” said David Behen, chief information officer for the state of Michigan.

“I see 2014 only increasing in that. We always have openings, approximately 50 to 70 at any one time. We’re always trying to fill those. The demand for IT talent is huge, and I see that continuing this year in all sectors (public and private).”

According to Robert Half International‘s recent Technology IT Hiring Forecast and Local Trend Report for Detroit, 12 percent of Detroit-area CIOs surveyed plan to expand their IT teams in the first half of this year. This is up 2 percentage points compared to projections from the previous six-month period (June-December 2013), according to the report.

In addition, the report continued, another 68 percent plan to hire only for open IT roles, 17 percent plan to put hiring plans on hold, and 3 percent expect to reduce their IT staff in the first six months of the year.

Web developers, system administrators and help desk professionals will continue to be in high demand in the next few months, especially in the manufacturing and healthcare sectors.

December data from the Workforce Intelligence Network found there were 14,200 software developer job openings.

“Someone told me the software developer and administrator will be the manufacturer of tomorrow,” said Gregg Garrett, founder and CEO of CGS Advisors LLC.

“Cars are more software than they are hardware, in many ways. The next generation line worker is assembling data. The next engineer that used to design a physical product is now designing a software product. And then you need developers to go develop and deliver it to the vehicle or other products.”

Garrett sees the IT need first-hand. In addition to owning his own IT strategy and innovation firm and being co-chair of WIN’s Tech Council, Garrett is an adjunct faculty member at Oakland University‘s schools of business and engineering.

He teaches courses on innovation, strategy, and enterprise architecture in the MBA and post-graduate certificate programs. Garrett also leads the first accredited program of its kind focused on “Competing in the Connected World.”

“For the first time, in a long time, I think the educators are starting to ask the professionals, ‘What do you need?'” Garrett said. “Not only what skills do you necessarily need, but how do you need us to work with it so we don’t train people on theory. Instead, we can train people on applied technology and skills.”

Another large IT position to open wide in 2014, Behen said, will be among security and cybersecurity positions.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of hiring in security,” Behen said. “As cybersecurity becomes more important, you’re going to see a lot of development in the talent around it. Ever since 2011 when Gov. (Rick) Snyder came in office, he really put an emphasis on cybersecurity. You’re going to see that industry continue to grow.”

Garrett agreed.

“Security, absolutely, both in scale and philosophy, is going to be a huge focus for the short-, medium- and long-term,” he said. “There will need to be more security for more connected things.”

The future of Michigan’s IT sector is strong, both Garrett and Behen said, just as long as it stays put.

“We have the talent,” Behen said. “The biggest challenge for Michigan, our companies and organizations is keeping that talent in the state. We will always need more IT people.”

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