Students voice concerns over the university’s IT shortage

COVID-19 demands and Great Resignation pointed to as causes for the shortages

Written By Caitlyn Scott, Co-News Editor

Staffing shortages are now causing Point Park’s IT department to face trouble filling vacant positions, leading to major concerns from students and faculty.

The administration said the shortages follow the national trends and challenges that have stemmed from COVID-19 and the Great Resignation.

“It’s certainly true that the pandemic created a lot more work for our IT Department, particularly during the height of it when students, faculty and most staff were at home using laptops,” University Marketing and Public Relations Managing Director Lou Corsaro said.

Located on the second floor of Thayer Hall, the Technology Help Desk [IT department] assists students and faculty with “any issues involving the technology resources” provided by the institution, according to the university’s website.

Back on March 12, 2020, Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Paylo sent a university-wide email that had alerted students that classes would be transitioned to virtual spaces due to the emergence of COVID-19, with “instruction delivered online or alternative forms for the remainder of the spring semester.”

As students and faculty then shifted online to conduct classes, remote learning soon became the safest form of communication between professors and students. Despite creating new challenges for IT, the department ensured that connectivity would be widely available and reliable.

“Ironically, at the time, like the summer before the pandemic hit, we did an emergency risk assessment across the campus,” Corsaro said. “And that led to looking at what equipment people need in the case of any type of emergency where you have to work at home, could be a short term thing or long term thing. And so there were employees like me that needed upgraded equipment, upgraded laptops to be able to work from home. And so we went through, and we provided those needs to everybody. But with a pandemic, it sent everybody working from home, which created a whole new layer of work for IT. Because they have to make sure they work on those laptops, a lot of time for laptops to come into campus to get the updates necessary, so it created a much more complicated structure for IT.”

Along with the pandemic causing challenges for these employees, President Don Green said that the demand for IT has skyrocketed within the country, making the demand for those experienced within the field more prominent than before.

“You know, think about Zoom,” Green said. “….All of that demand for industry across the country has just shot up the amount of required technical talent around IT. And as it has, it’s just increased the amount of demand from organization to organization.”

In addition to the high demand of IT, Green added that, due to an increase of worker resignations and unemployment, it has been difficult to find those willing to work within the field.

“You’ve got everybody switching out their desktops or laptops,” Green said. “Then you also got great resignations. So you’ve got people who may have technical skills, but they’re like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to do this right now.’ So it’s multifactor,”

According to a report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) on March 11, the state unemployment rate fell “one tenth of a percent” to 5.4%, although the national unemployment rate rose by “a tenth of a percent to 4%” back in January of this year.

Although this may be the case, the report estimated the state’s civilian labor force increased by 4,000 over the past month, with employment rates rising by 13,000 and resident unemployment decreasing by 9,000, although Point Park has still faced staffing concerns.

“I haven’t heard of any department that has the situation IT has though,” Corsaro said. “It’s been more like a university-wide thing of trying to make sure we retain and attract the right people university-wide, but IT seems to be a unique thing.”

With this being the case, students have begun to voice concern over the possible issues that could arise with low staffing rates within the department.

Freshman theatre arts major Madison Thongmonkolchai said that she believes that if the problem of understaffing continues within the department, communication would definitely be impacted if a major technological problem were to occur for students, such as spam or phishing scams.

“Communication [between students and IT] will definitely decrease,” Thongmonkolchai said. “If we can’t get into our emails because we either forgot our passwords or if our information was stolen from several spam messages that we’ve been getting from accounts that have been hacked, [students wouldn’t know who to turn to for help].”

“I’m not sure what our university can do other than continue looking for workers and finding ways to please them to get them to join their IT team,” Thongmonkolchai added.

Along with Thongmonkolchai, sophomore sports communications major James Hodgetts said that due to low staffing, students and staff may both run into issues receiving help from the department.

“I believe some problems could arise if students can’t receive assistance from IT,” Hodgetts said. “This can cause students not receiving the required help that they may need, and this could negatively impact both sides.”

With communication being a major factor in issues among students, many have called upon the university to look for solutions to this problem.

Freshman Sports, Arts and Entertainment Management (SAEM) major Leah Verdi said that she believes that the continuation of COVID-19 restrictions has been the catalyst of low employment rates within the department, although the possibility of lifted restrictions may aid in increasing recruitment.

“The restrictions from COVID-19 has made finding employees extremely difficult as pretty much every other workplace in this country is understaffed,” Verdi said. “If restrictions do get lifted at Point Park, I could see it being a bit easier to recruit more staff, but I’m not entirely sure.”

“To recruit more workers, I think the university could possibly offer incentives like a sign-on bonus possibly,” Verdi added.

“I think that some cost-effective incentives could bring in more workers. Benefits that relate to the university instead of more money added to a paycheck can better both sides,” Hodgetts said.