RFID skills shortage on the horizon

“There are relatively few people getting hands-on experience right now. There are lots of people looking and following what’s happening but there’s a much smaller number of people who are directly involved,” he said.

There’s currently no sense of urgency around the technology, said McGuiness, but “what we’ll see is a mushrooming of acceptance, then what we’ll see is the dearth of talent.”

Bob Moroz, president of Toronto-based R. Moroz Ltd., has been involved with RFID at various levels for almost a decade. Interest in the technology is beginning to blossom, but the understanding of how it works and what can be done with it just isn’t there yet, he said.

Most people associate RFID with retail, thanks to the involvement of giants like Wal-Mart, he said, but there are applications for it beyond supply chain.

“It’s like a toolkit. There’s not one tool for all types of requirements; there’s not one type of RFID technology for all types of solutions,” he said, adding there is a fundamental lack of knowledge around RFID protocols and standards. “People buy a product, buy a tag and integrate it as part of their system. A lot of time what happens is they’re not putting in the right type of RFID front-end for that specific environment.”

Organizations such as GS1 Canada, the body that helps set international standards for RFID, are trying to combat that lack of comprehension. GS1 formed a strategic advisory council made up of 18 solution providers last year. It also created an education sub-committee that will offer courses to increase the level of understanding about RFID.

It’s a step in the right direction, said Jack Brooks, vice-president of business development for EPC Global Canada (a division of GS1). But he acknowledged that a shortage of qualified RFID personnel is likely. “I don’t see it as a huge issue now, but as things roll out, people have to get trained and they have to turn somewhere,” he said.

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) released a study that indicates 75 per cent of companies are experiencing a shortage of talent to implement and service RFID. That number is slightly lower than 2005’s figure of 85 per cent.

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