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How tech pros can close the growing skills gap

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Duncan Andison)

The arrival of new technology consistently brings about both opportunities and challenges for businesses and end-users. But, throughout this era of major technological change, one aspect remains a constant for the IT industry: the employment skills gap. 

Today, 91 per cent of IT hiring managers in the U.S. express some level of discrepancy between the skills employees possess and those the company needs, according to a recent analysis from CompTIA. This is an ongoing issue that has come about because of the fast and frequent changes occurring in the industry. Organisations require workers who are well versed in foundational concepts such as infrastructure, networking and the cloud, but also niche and emerging areas including responsive design, data visualisation and cognitive computing. 

In many respects, it would be troublesome to find an organisation that is fully content with the level of skills and experience their employees currently possess. The need to continually develop to effectively support ever-changing technology, combined with today’s increasingly competitive job market makes it no surprise that we are having to address an overarching gap in IT skills. 

Can you share data on the IT skills shortage? 

Most organisations aim to improve their utilisation of IT, but few are where they want to be in terms of effectiveness or efficiency. For a number of reasons, the IT skills gap remains a challenge for businesses. Only a selection of workers have the skills that they desire. Likewise, more than half of companies claim to be concerned about the quality and quantity of IT talent available for hire. 

Currently, the IT services sector is unable to find qualified applicants for 15 per cent of open positions. The need for skilled workers is expected to grow significantly as millions of IT workers approach retirement in the next eight to ten years. Just in the area of cybersecurity, there are 128,000 positions open for “Information Security Analysts,” but only 88,000 now employed in these positions. 

What can companies do to minimise the skills shortage?

Professionals should constantly be seeking out ways to develop their skills, whether it’s through internships, signing up for classes at community colleges, work-sharing and job-sharing programs, among other opportunities available to them in their community. 

As for companies, organisations can help narrow the skills gap through creative hiring practices that attract and retain workers, as well as apprenticeships and mentorship programs.  

What IT skills are in highest demand today? What IT skills are lacking most today?

Workers are coming up short in existing core areas such as security and data storage. Our research also shows that workers are lacking skills in emerging areas such as business process automation and mobility. 

While these areas are important, the skills that will be in highest demand this year will be largely based on the technology priorities within each organisation, from security to flexibility integrating different platforms and hardware. 

What are the benefits of joining an IT professional organisation? 

Even though many tech professionals have developed strong research and problem-solving skills, some knowledge is best learned from others in the industry. Especially as IT pros work to meet the growing needs around information security, artificial intelligence and cloud management, professional associations and their advantages will become increasingly valuable. 

Joining an IT professional organisation such as the one CompTIA will be launching in the spring can provide members with an assortment of benefits. Here is a sampling of the benefits our organisation will offer members: 

  • Skills - Significant discounts on certification and continuing education programs
  • Knowledge - Access to the extensive Skillsoft library, which addresses a wide range of management and networking topics
  • Career Advancement - Access to an exclusive, customised career portal that offers customisable resume building, facilitates specialised employment searches and provides a career path roadmap
  • Experience - Participation in CompTIA’s AskIT program, for direct work experience
  • Networking - Opportunities to connect with peers online and face-to-face

How can IT pros stay on top of the latest skill sets? 

Reading news stories and analysis of technology trends can help. We also recommend IT professionals pursue new industry certifications and credentials. 

It’s important that IT professionals remain teachable and hungry to learn throughout the course of their career. This is one sure-fire way we can help close the IT skills gap. 

What is the role of certifications in minimising the skills shortage?

The less conventional career paths of technology industry leaders such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have made many companies more interested in what you know rather than how you know it. 

With that said, organisations still need to be confident that workers have basic job-critical skills, which is why many look for some-level of verification. This is why certifications and hands-on experience are so important for building a career in IT. 

What other types of professional development opportunities are available to IT pros?

Of course, we highly recommend networking, industry events and continued training and education. 

One way to find relevant events and build a network is to seek out a mentor. Mentorships, whether it be with a more experienced IT professional or another executive in a related industry, can open new doors for professionals. Mentors and mentees can meet regularly to share industry best practices, advice and other useful information. Whether this intel is related to how to troubleshoot a common network connection issue or approach a supervisor about a raise or a promotion, it’s incredibly beneficial for IT professionals to share this first-hand knowledge. It’s also important to note that mentors don’t need to be employed at the same organisation or in the same position, as it can be helpful to have a mentor who can share more about their company’s experience, infrastructure and history. 

With all that said, I can’t stress enough the benefits of joining CompTIA's new association, which will be officially activated this spring. This is one of many ways to find a mentor. The organisation will offer a multifaceted suite of benefits for IT professionals of all types – explicitly designed to help facilitate the success of IT pros throughout their careers: a "resume-to-retirement” employment-support strategy.

By CompTIA
Image source: Shutterstock/Duncan Andison

The Computing Technology Industry Association, a non-profit trade association, issues professional certifications for the information technology industry. It is considered one of the IT industry's top trade associations.