Open Source Jobs Report Shows More Openings, Fewer Takers

The Linux Foundation and learning platform edX on Monday released the latest open source jobs report which updates technology hiring since the last report two years ago. The research shows that, despite the pandemic, demand for open source technology skills continues to be strong.

The 2020 Open Source Jobs Report reveals a spike in demand for DevOps talent, along with a continued lack of applicants with open source skills. The continuing lack of qualified candidates for unfilled Linux tech jobs is puzzling. Many companies, and The Linux Foundation itself, provide free and low-cost training to ease the recruiting shortage.

An increasing number of companies now offer their workers free training to qualify for other tech jobs. For example, 63 percent of hiring managers said their companies continue to provide increased educational opportunities for existing staff to fill skills gaps.

That is a significant jump from 48 percent in 2018. Still, 93 percent of hiring managers this year report difficulty finding open source talent.

2020 has been a difficult year for businesses. But it is encouraging to see that open source continues to provide abundant opportunities, noted Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin.

“The Linux Foundation and our members will continue to work to provide technological advancements that benefit everyone while striving to make open source educational opportunities more accessible,” he said.

High-Tech Workers Floundering

Many Linux Foundation members see technology advancing at such an incredible pace that it is hard for individual open source professionals to keep up. Additionally, digital transformation activities continue to be implemented at an accelerating rate, which is growing the gap even more, added Clyde Seepersad, senior vice president and general manager for training and certification at The Linux Foundation.

“Making training more accessible and less burdensome is the best solution to this problem. Bringing new individuals into the industry, including those with little-to-no prior technology experience, is also essential to ensuring adequate staffing will be available in the future,” he told LinuxInsider.

Software engineers and technical workers change jobs more frequently. This pattern raises questions about the viability of companies investing deeply with in-house skills training, suggested Leroy Ware, co-founder and CEO of Knack for Engineers .

“Engineers and other tech workers tend to move from job to job more in 2020 than they did 10 or 20 years ago. It does make sense, however, to move workers around within a company and expose them to new challenges to keep them engaged and ensure that they keep growing professionally,” he told LinuxInsider.

Those movements usually involve some kind of free training, but most of the learning comes from the work experience itself, he added.

Meeting Corporate Needs

That training approach makes sense as the demand for engineers with DevOps skills is growing. The report is significant for both companies and open-source contributors, according to Ware.

“Over the last decade, companies appear to be more interested in full-stack engineers who know both front-end and back-end development as well as developers who know how to deploy applications rather than simply build them,” he told LinuxInsider.

Generalists with broad knowledge rather than specialists with expertise in one narrow area is the trend. It is also worth pointing out that DevOps and infrastructure are largely handled through software-defined approaches now, such as Docker, Serverless, the AWS CDK, and similar approaches, noted Ware.

“DevOps pipelines can be completely described using YAML files, which is something every engineer understands,” he said.

New Job Training Essential for Innovation

The growing practice of employers providing free tech skills training for workers is both viable and necessary, Seepersad believes. He sees it as becoming essential for employers to provide training to their teams.

“There simply are not enough individuals with the necessary skills in the market to hire your way out of the talent gap. I do not believe employers should view training as adversarial and worry that they will train a promising team member only to have them take those new skills and leave,” he said.

Employees are demanding training. There is a much bigger risk of departures for those companies that refuse to provide this service to their teams, Seepersad said.

Another factor to consider is what happens if jobs go unfilled. Engineering jobs are critical.

“Open-source continues to drive almost all innovation in the engineering space. There is not a single startup that makes an impact these days that is not using some sort of open-source code as the foundation of their product or platform, offered Ware.

This includes everything from the operating system, e.g. Linux, to the engineering stack (React.js, Node.js, Serveless, the AWS CDK). We are all building on the shoulders of open-source contributors, he said.

Nurturing Talent

The 2020 Open Source Jobs Report is the eighth time The Linux Foundation has engaged in this study. It is the first time the foundation partnered with edX to produce it. As with the last three reports, the focus is on all aspects of open-source software.

The report examines trends in open source careers, which skills are most in-demand, the motivation for open source professionals, and how employers attract and retain qualified talent.

As a fellow open-source organization, edX knows how important these skills are to advancing innovative technology projects around the world, according to Adam Medros, edX president and co-CEO.

“For example, technologists working on our Open edX platform are contributing to its development and creating new and innovative ways for people to learn online and pursue the outcomes they want,” he noted.

The goal of the report is to provide open source professionals with a clear picture of the industry to inform their decisions around joining and creating teams. It is also designed to inform organizations decisions around training and investing in their workers, he added.

Free training for existing workers does not seem to improve recruiting efforts. For instance, 74 percent of employers are now offering to pay for employee certifications. That number is up from 55 percent in 2018, 47 percent in 2017, and 34 percent in 2016.

Key Findings

For the first time in the history of this report, DevOps is the most in-demand job role. It overtook the top category slot held by software developers.

According to the report, 65 percent of companies are looking to hire more DevOps talent. That number is up from 59 percent in 2018.

Cloud expertise has the biggest impact on getting hired according to hiring managers survey. This result was considerably higher than in the last report in 2018.

A full 80 percent of employers now report that they provide online training courses for employees to learn open-source software. That number is up from 66 percent two years ago.

Certifications grew in importance. The report shows that 52 percent of hiring managers are more likely to hire someone with a certification, up from 47 percent two years ago.

Cloud technology is also a leading-edge for jobs. In terms of knowledge domains, hiring managers report knowledge of open cloud technologies has the most significant impact.

To that end, 70 percent of hiring managers are more likely to hire someone with these skills. That response is up from 66 percent in 2018.

COVID-19 Uptick

The pandemic may not have had as damaging an impact on tech jobs as anticipated. Hiring is down but not out due to COVID-19.

Neither is tech job layoffs caused by the pandemic. Only four percent of employers reported that they laid off open source professionals due to COVID-19 and hiring is already picking up.

Despite the pandemic and economic slowdown, 37 percent of hiring managers say they will be hiring more skilled IT professionals in the next six months.

Online training gained popularity with employers during the pandemic. Eighty percent of the responding companies are offering online training courses for employees to learn open-source software, up from 66 percent two years ago.

More anecdotally, researchers are seeing trends towards increased flexibility in the workplace, largely due to COVID-19, according to Seepersad. Letting employees work remotely more and more is leading to an internationalization of the open-source workforce. That was already more remote and international than your average industry before the pandemic.

“It means, though, that companies are looking beyond Silicon Valley or other tech corridors for hires, which is making the industry somewhat more competitive as you aren’t only up against developers or engineers in your region, but all over the world,” he said.

It will be interesting to see how this affects the market in the months and years to come. Still unknown is whether it will persist when things eventually begin to normalize somewhat, added Seepersad.

Key Earmarks

The 2020 Open Source Jobs Report is based on data from more than 175 hiring managers at corporations, small and medium businesses (SMBs), government organizations, and staffing agencies across the globe. Participants also included more than 900 open source professionals worldwide.

The report contains several significant developments for both companies and open source contributors, offered Seepersad. The first big takeaway is the growth in DevOps demand. The report also shows that cloud demand continues to skyrocket in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns.

For years we have heard companies talk about implementing Agile development practices and removing silos between developers and operations teams. It seems the tipping point is here as that transition has come to fruition.

“The drop in demand for developers and sysadmins makes perfect sense as we have seen the corresponding increase in demand for DevOps pros. It is not that there is actually any less need for development or admin talent. It is simply that these roles are now meant to work together, he observed.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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