Demand for computer-savvy managers changes education landscape | Crain's Connecticut

Demand for computer-savvy managers changes education landscape

  • Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy speaks at Norwalk Community College in 2014 about technology and education. | Photo courtesy of the Office of Gov. Malloy

    Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy speaks at Norwalk Community College in 2014 about technology and education. | Photo courtesy of the Office of Gov. Malloy

  • Student interest is driving demand for more courses in business management at the Yale School of Management. | Photo by anokarina via Creative Commons

    Student interest is driving demand for more courses in business management at the Yale School of Management. | Photo by anokarina via Creative Commons

Management jobs and particularly those involving computer systems are expected to be areas of significant growth in Connecticut in coming years, prompting changes in the talent pipeline aimed at best capitalizing on the trend.

The Connecticut Department of Labor forecasted that the overall number of management positions will increase 7.3 percent over the 10-year period from 2014 to 2024. That’s higher than the projected 6.1 percent increase for all occupations during that time. The hottest sector within management is computer and information systems, where the increase in positions is forecast at 22.2 percent, according to the department.

There is a “scramble” among Connecticut companies to find management talent, especially in the computer field, said Peter Gioia, vice president and economist at the Hartford-based Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

“There is a need for high-quality people that can manage teams of people and interface with upper management,” he said in an interview with Crain’s Connecticut. “They’re needed for upgrades and to keep companies state of the art.”

Computer and information technology managers are especially important in the healthcare field due to privacy laws and concerns about breaches of financial information, he said. Finance and manufacturing are other industries becoming increasingly dependent on computer talent and managers with computer skills, added Gioia, whose 10,000-member group is Connecticut’s largest business association.

Healthcare is the largest overall employment sector in Connecticut and nationally, according to Nancy Steffens, spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor. The department counts healthcare occupations apart from computer and mathematical occupations, she noted, adding that those counted as computer and math occupations made up only 2.8 percent, or 46,970 positions, of Connecticut’s job total as of this year’s first quarter.

A projected 31.3 percent rise in the subset of computer systems design and related services translates to just 8,024 jobs over 10 years, Steffens said. The computer sector alone, as defined by department statisticians, is not expected to return Connecticut to the level of jobs it had before the Great Recession, she said. At present, Connecticut is 28,300 jobs short of where it was before the 2008 recession hit.

Yet the Department of Labor is encouraging job seekers and students to major in computer science or boost their computer skills since jobs are becoming increasingly related to information technology, she said.

“The real takeaway from this is that Connecticut’s jobs recovery is dependent upon a combination of occupations and sectors,” Steffens said. “While it is important to look at growth by percentage, it is equally important to look at the number of jobs that need to be filled, or will be created in certain areas over the next 10 years.”

And management is everywhere and growing, Gioia pointed out.

The Yale School of Management has “dramatically” expanded courses centered on developing computer-savvy entrepreneurs in the last few years, said Nathan Williams, the New Haven-based school’s managing director of marketing and public relations. Those include two courses led by Professor Kyle Jensen on the management of software development.

Creation and expansion of management courses centered on computer software is being driven more by student demand than from companies in the sector, Jensen said. As many as 120 students have enrolled in the two classes, which Jensen calls “popular” electives. Many of the students want to be project managers at companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft.

“These students are not going to be developers, punching out code,” he said in an interview with Crain’s Connecticut. “They’re interested in managing teams in big tech organizations.”

Computer savviness is of “tremendous” importance to the manager of today, Jensen said.

“There’s not an aspect of our lives that this technology doesn’t touch,” he said. “This trend won’t stop. It will only accelerate.”

Yale’s MBA program is being expanded amid its growth to 330 students in recent years from previous classes of 230 students. “Quality and diversity” is being maintained or improved, Williams said, adding that the target size is 340 students for the full-time MBA program with five sections of 68 students each.

Applications to the full-time MBA program are growing with 3,649 applications received for 2015-16, up from 3,449 the previous year and 2,756 the year before that.

All of Connecticut’s 12 community colleges offer management certificates and/or degrees in management or business administration. Programs are also being expanded, said Maribel La Luz, communications director at Connecticut State Colleges and Universities.

Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury is adding management classes on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting in January. Tunxis Community College in Farmington has created a seven-week business administration certificate program designed for working people wanting to upgrade skills in shorter amounts of time.

Next fall, the state system will begin a Business Transfer and Articulation program that allows students to complete degrees and transfer to a four-year college without losing or generating excess credits.

These moves are largely driven by labor market trends, La Luz said.

“We work directly with our local business community to develop our curriculum to make sure they’re relevant to available jobs in our state,” she said.

Within nine months of graduation, 76 percent are working in jobs in Connecticut, La Luz said.

The fact that Connecticut management positions are growing faster than the overall workforce is no surprise to those working at the Drucker Institute, a think tank named after renowned management writer Peter Drucker (1909-2005). The trend is part of the ascension of “knowledge workers” that Drucker identified decades ago in “The Practice of Management,” “Managing for Results,” and others among his 39 books.

“To be made productive, knowledge workers need to be managed effectively, management being the means by which we maximize the effectiveness of human performance to produce positive impact and results,” said Lawrence Greenspun, director of public sector engagement at the California-based Drucker Institute.

The ideas of Drucker and the institute, which was formed 10 years ago, are applicable to government as well as business, Greenspun said. The institute has an online magazine that contains ideas about building effective management teams through hiring and other methods. The Drucker Playbook for the Public Sector, a product designed specifically to provide public sector managers with strategies for achieving individual and team effectiveness, is being deployed nationwide.

Drucker’s landmark book on effectiveness – “The Effective Executive” – will be 50 years old next year. It discusses practicing a set of habits that led to success of people including New Haven-born Alfred P. Sloan Jr., who turned General Motors Corp. into the world’s largest industrial concern, and Gen. George C. Marshall Jr., chief of staff of the U.S. Army during World War II.

The main idea – that effectiveness can be learned – is still relevant for managers working in Connecticut and elsewhere and helps explain why the ranks are growing, Greenspun said.

“As organizations – whether they are government agencies, businesses and corporations, or nonprofits – build teams of knowledge workers, managers (who are themselves knowledge workers) will have to be hired to help turn ideas generated by knowledge workers into action and then results,” he said.

November 3, 2016 - 10:43am