Billionaire tech investor calls programmers ‘the rarest commodity on the planet’

Twitter employees are prepare for job cuts under the leadership of Elon Musk. Intel (INTC) is cutting its workforce as part of a multibillion-dollar cost-cutting plan. Instantaneous (INSTANTANEOUS) cut 20% of its workforce and could further reduce.

At the same time, large technology companies like Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon (AMZN), while now slowing growth, still have a higher number of employees than a year ago. And software development is still an in-demand skill, analysts say. That’s ahead of an October jobs report which economists say will show the US economy added 200,000 jobs last month.

“I like to say that the rarest commodity on the planet isn’t petroleum, lithium, or cobalt, it’s actually software programmers.” So said Robert Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, the private equity firm with $94 billion in assets under management and a focus in enterprise software.

“There are seven and a half billion people on the planet,” he added, “and only 29 million of us who write code for a living.”

The data reflects strong demand for software developers. WE job vacancies increased unexpectedly in September. Although the Department of Labor does not break down software developers in this report on a monthly basis, they fall into the professional and business services category. These openings increased by 4.5% compared to the previous year.

Robert Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, speaks during the 21st Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Job postings for software programmers are up 57% from February 2020, according to Recruitment Lab. This represents a slowdown from the peak gain of 131% in March 2022 compared to February 2020, suggesting businesses could cut spending.

Still, the need for programmers appears to be a longer-term trend that isn’t going away, even if there is a reduction in costs amid current economic concerns. An IDC analyst said the shortage is not limited to the United States IDC report estimated that the global shortage of full-time developers will increase from 1.4 million last year to 4 million in 2025.

“Many companies/recruitment agencies across Europe are looking to other talent pools such as South America and Asia to fill roles locally,” wrote Leonardo Bulgarelli Freitas, Research Director at IDC UK, in an email. “It used to happen, but there seems to be an even bigger increase in hiring outside the continent.”

He noted that a recent IDC survey found software developers in the top five most in-demand roles in information technology.

“It’s the people who really deliver and build these productivity tools who must continue to enable and digitize not just businesses, but entire economies in countries, in education, in cybersecurity,” said Vista’s Smith. Equity. “These are the areas where we are really seeing increased demand.”

Smith has tried to help close this programmer gap — as well as address the shortage of black programmers and digital workers. After significantly pay off student loans of Morehouse University’s graduating class of 2019, the billionaire created the Student Freedom Initiative, a nonprofit loan vehicle for STEM students at minority-serving institutions.

“We need to activate our citizens more to be part of the digital revolution,” he said.

Julie Hyman is the co-presenter of Yahoo Finance Live, weekdays 9-11 a.m. ET. Follow her on Twitter @juleshymanand Lily his other stories.

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