By James A. Mitchell

New jobs and skill sets themselves are on the rise as IT continues influencing ever-expanding fields.

“IT supports everything,” said Tom Hendricks, dean of CIS and IT at Oakland Community College. Educators and employers say that trend is expected to continue as online and mobile advancements shape “The Internet of Things” to come.

“We need to be on the front end of that as opposed to lagging behind. Whatever we can do in advance of the next greatest thing would be awesome, and industry can help by saying ‘we need this’ or ‘we need that.’”

What they’ve needed have been qualified workers, and more of them. IT positions showed the most gains in the first quarter of 2015 according to the Workforce Intelligence Network, with more than 6,200 additional listings in southeast Michigan compared to the previous year.

Yet the jobs are harder to define than in any other field, and the internet and mobile explosions have generated postings for tech-savvy staff that haven’t always reflected school curriculum.

“Each company is a little different with IT,” Hendricks said. “Is it security work, network, infrastructure? There are so many branches it becomes exponential.”

Oakland is establishing advisory groups to consider future expectations for providing qualified talent in what are admittedly uncharted fields. Employers expect to develop a workforce skilled in fundamentals that continue to evolve with greater online connectivity and mobile apps.

“We’re finding people with good engineering and IT backgrounds to help drive the segment,” said Tom Zimmerman, Southfield-based regional director of data solutions for Verizon Wireless. “But we’re just at the beginning of growth. The talents and skills that are being taught through STEM education will evolve and become more technical.”

The cell-phone provider itself posted 45 percent revenue growth in 2014 from the previous year as smart-phone and app technologies exploded. Everything from the cloud to security to infrastructure will only add to a job market where the jobs have yet to be defined.

Obviously the capacity is rapidly expanding and we see the demand increasing day by day,” Zimmerman said. An estimated 80 percent of positions in the next decade will require some basic if not advanced technology skills.

“Right now we’re getting what we need,” Zimmerman said. “But as this grows and evolves people will need a deeper, technical skill set.” Verizon continues reaching out to younger students, and last month the Verizon Foundation presented a $25,000 award to Detroit’s Cass Tech High School for their STEM programs. Programs such as MAT2 will be where the foundation is established for a future, high-tech workforce, which is expected to create rather than eliminate positions.

“It’s easy to say that the internet of things and intelligent systems will replace jobs,” Zimmerman said. “The flip side is that it’s creating new products and new jobs and service markets. We’re seeing the addition of jobs.”

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