I've been thinking of the best way to summarize this year, not just for myself but everyone I know in the industry. After much consideration one word will do nicely: Slammed.
From small companies to freelancers, everyone I know had more work than they knew what to do with in 2007 despite all the up-and-down news about economies and consumer confidence. Thankfully much of the work we did this year had little relationship to the Dow Jones or venture capital and from what I can see this will trend will continue into the new year.
A few weeks ago essays and comments were traded regarding the future of the syntax we use to craft web sites. It was a nifty exchange but I'd rather see that passion directed at the larger problem affecting this industry: The dwindling population of qualified, talented, and educated people who are available.
Do what you must to bring new techniques/frameworks to the market, but without more and improved labor to put it all into practice, it's just words on a website.
As an employer of a growing number of full-time and freelance workers I can tell you that it's becoming increasingly difficult to find good people. I have had several conversations with persons of top stature in the web design business who are of the same opinion. Their own businesses' have been slightly crippled this year due to work demand vs. human supply. Even non-web specific companies are having difficulty finding solid talent.
I don't see there being a quick turn-around for this problem but it will escalate if we don't spend time and resources to proactively help improve the situation (and hopefully with better results than with that other not-for-profit institution we all know and love). We can't rely on educational institutions to figure this out for themselves. Nor should we rely singularly on these facilities as we need to also embrace the self-starter with the same bravado and commitment that was given to web standards earlier this decade.
The work that most of us do is largely compatible, somewhat interchangeable, and with that in mind I believe it should be possible to come up with a simple curriculuma guide for what a person can do to discover their strengths and weaknesses (designer vs. developer), understand the process of how a web shop operates, and set the standard for what is considered acceptable work for all disciplines. If we could do that much, and in a way that is inviting to persons so they will want to improve their own skill sets, then there is nothing to stand in the way of the next phase of success in our sphere of the entire industry.
I hope everyone has had a great holiday and a happy new year. Here's to all of us succeeding like wildfire in 2008.