Java Skills Gap?

Java's skills gap
[Johannesburg, 19 March 2004] - Research firm Gartner says only 32% of the 2.5 million Java developers in the world have genuine knowledge, which means there is a serious lack of high-level development skills.

“This has resulted in a tremendous backlog of projects,” says Aad Van Schetsen, Compuware sales director for application development and integration solutions in the Europe, Middle East, Africa region. “Some European companies need to complete up to 500 projects in the next two years.”

Ben van Niekerk, Compuware SA product manager, says locally the backlog is mainly in projects to integrate new applications into Java legacy code.

Van Schetsen concurs that integrating heterogeneous environments is an even greater problem than productivity and maintenance.

Java development tools have been tipped to reduce the J2EE skills gap, enabling fewer developers to complete more projects because of the shortage in highly-skilled developers, but Van Schetsen says the key to the success of tools such as Compuware's OptimalJ is their use of a model-driven architecture (MDA),

“MDA is essential for ensuring consistency and speed for any team of Java developers,” says Van Schetsen. “Highly skilled and experienced Java developers are quick to recognise the value of MDA and how the use of patterns or instruction sets for generating applications can significantly boost productivity as well as quality and consistency of code.”

Van Niekerk observes: “Tools like OptimalJ ensure best practices and standards as well as enable companies to leverage the core capabilities of their developers by allowing them to focus on applications and not the underlying technologies.”

Although there is a shift from traditional Java development to pattern development, Van Schetsen says there will always be room for manual Java coding because between 10% and 20% of any project needs custom code to be written manually.

“Development tools using pattern-based model-driven architectures should not threaten jobs in the sector.” He says particularly in SA, the number of Java developers is likely to grow or remain constant while the number of projects increases.

“There are strong indications that MDA is not about fewer developers, but about more projects.”

Van Niekerk says although there is a growing awareness of this new paradigm of Java development in the market, a great deal of education still needs to be done.

“Although we are still in the education phase, particularly with less experienced Java developers and development companies, momentum is gradually growing with OptimalJ sales increasing threefold in the past financial year.”