Star 200: Southern Arizona's public sector struggles to keep in-demand analysts

2013-04-28T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T11:21:31Z Star 200: Southern Arizona's public sector struggles to keep in-demand analystsBecky Pallack Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Local government employers have an unusual problem on their hands - many job openings and no one to fill them.

It's happening in information technology departments.

Pima County has a dozen job openings and has a hard time finding candidates, Deputy IT Director Chuck Decker recently told the Board of Supervisors.

Most of the openings are for business analysts who work with specific government departments.

The county has raised salary levels, lowered expectations for entry-level hires and offered training, Decker said.

Once the county catches new hires, it can be hard to keep them. The county recently lost two staff members who got pay raises of $20,000 to $25,000 for taking posts at Intuit and 3M, Decker said.

"Our competition is the major (employers) - U of A, Raytheon - and they're paying more money," he said.

It's the same story at the city of Tucson, where it's hard to find IT job candidates, and some candidates have declined job offers due to the pay, said city spokesman Michael Graham.

Competition is high everywhere for computer systems analysts, said Bill Neumann, a senior lecturer in the Department of Management Information Systems at the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management.

As the economy improves, companies are looking at investments in IT to be a force multiplier, he said.

Business analysts have a unique set of skills in math, programming, business and communications, he said.

The UA's MIS program is in demand because it teaches all those skills, Neumann said. And business intelligence, sometimes called "big data," is a hot trend right now, he added.

Demand for those skills is bringing stress to the public sector, he said. To help find the right recruits, government employers should focus on early-career analysts who don't want a Silicon Valley lifestyle, Neumann said.

Did you know?

The median annual wage for computer systems analysts in the Tucson area is $67,300, up 33 percent from $50,750 in 2000.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.

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