Metro-East News

Software firm falls short in hiring goals at Scott because of Java programmer shortage

High local demand for workers familiar with the popular Java programming language has delayed software developer SuprTEK’s previously announced efforts to hire 68 information technology consultants by the end of this month, according to the local project manager.

In December, a SuprTEK spokeswoman announced the Virginia-based firm planned to hire 68 IT professionals as a result of a five-year, $59 million contract awarded by the Air Mobility Command, based at Scott Air Force Base. The workers will develop and test web-based software applications to support the logistics behind the command’s global airlift, air refueling and aeromedical missions.

But a shortage of experienced Java programmers has put SuprTEK on track to hire 55 by the end of the month, said Dan Shaffer, the program manager.

“As I quickly learned, it’s a tough market in the St. Louis metro area,” Shaffer said. “There’s just a huge, huge demand for Java developers — juniors, mid-level, seniors, team leaders. ... So a lot of competition. So it’s slowed our staffing down a little bit.”

Java is a general purpose programming language renowned for what is called “platform independence,” meaning it can run on many types of computers.

SuprTEK plans to reach its 68th hire by either April or May, Shaffer said.

SuprTEK, of Ashburn, Va., will see its workforce of consultants jump to 300 workers from the current 225, with the new workers deployed in at least six software development teams, according to an interview spokeswoman Angela Brooks provided in December.

SuprTEK’s work for AMC will center on developing systems that automate planning processes that are currently being done manually, such as replanning of changed air missions and the management of air crews, Brooks said.

“It’s always cool when you can automate a manual process, “ she said. “It saves time and brainpower.”

The SuprTEK contract with AMC is the latest bit of good news for Scott Air Force Base, as far as jobs and its national profile.

Last June, the Air Force announced two cybersecurity squadrons, for a total of 320 new jobs, would be coming to Scott by 2016, a move that would be preceded by an investment of $16 million in existing infrastructure to house the new civilian and military workers and provide them with a work site.

Four months ago, St. Clair County leaders were notified that a 182-acre parcel of land in unincorporated St. Clair County, and adjacent to Scott’s northwest boundary, was one of four finalists for a new home for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, NGA West, replacing an aging and cramped facility in St. Louis. The intelligence agency is set to announce its pick for the finalist venue a year from now.

NGA is a classified federal agency that provides maps and other data tools to military units, federal departments and law enforcement and intelligence agencies. NGA also “assists humanitarian and disaster relief efforts by working directly with the lead federal agencies responding to fires, floods, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes or other natural or man-made disasters, “ according to its website.

If the St. Clair County site is chosen, the county will receive official notification in early 2016 — news that will surely bring jubilation among county leaders because of the 3,000 jobs that will come with the 800,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to open in 2022