With all the excitement around technology advancements such as cloud services, digital transformation, robotic process automation and the Internet of Things, there is also a real issue brewing in the industry that technology may actually be ahead of the talent in the market – especially college grads and younger employees looking for the next step in their careers. Concerns are real that there’s a widening skills gap, but it’s also true that fantastic opportunities exist in places where some people aren’t looking.
It’s challenging for colleges and universities to keep pace with the extraordinary rate of change in technology and the skill sets they need to be teaching. Gartner and other analysts say we’ve seen more change over the past few years than in the previous two decades, just with the evolution of the cloud and digital transformation alone. Despite this drastic change, college curricula by and large have not yet caught up to the layers of training and specialization needed to prepare students for the opportunities awaiting them.
Companies also have to deal with changing needs. If you were hiring 15 years ago, you’d have been looking for dBase, Oracle, SQL, COBOL, RPG and database programmers, and some companies are just now shifting to the skills for the next 20 years ─ converged infrastructure expertise, cloud assessment, the transition from on-premise to hybrid and cloud technologies and JAVA or Python expertise that operates mainly with mobile or cloud-based technology.
That’s not even talking about security, which is the underpinning of all of this and presents, by far, the biggest opportunity for anyone going into the tech market. Security has multiple subsets, from endpoint security, end-user/client devices, cybersecurity, data security, physical security and the security issues around the analog world switching to digital.
As a highly trained professional services executive, I find it difficult to locate the right skill sets for today’s IT positions. I can’t hire college recruits if they don’t have the skills and I don’t see a high mix of women and people in their twenties and thirties in our market. To me, that says we’re doing something wrong – especially considering all of the exciting IT career paths available today.
Educators and businesses need to catch up to the technology skill sets that students and younger employees need to qualify for leading-edge, well-compensated IT roles. (It’s no longer about just fixing computers or running service desk – this outdated view of IT is one reason some young people are leaving the industry.) A career in IT for the right talent represents a career-long opportunity (and potentially six-figure salaries) as skills, market forces and cool technologies continue to evolve.
Skills notwithstanding, college grads and younger workers feeling limited in their current jobs may be missing out on opportunities that already exist in the huge channel and outsourcing market, versus the commercial sector.
Unfortunately, we tend to use the commercial market as the barometer for jobs and salaries, yet the markets are all different and hiring criteria can also vary. Most survey data is generally focused on the commercial sector, which doesn’t reflect the larger market of VARs, integrators and channel, which employ as many in North America as the commercial sector. College grads following the data often focus on the commercial sector in their job searches.
I recently worked with a local college to help educators understand the skills gap and the tech training needed to address it. A survey conducted by the college targeted mostly commercial sector companies and the government sector only slightly. The survey missed the largest segment of the market: companies like CompuCom that employ tens of thousands of IT workers. CompuCom alone employs approximately 6-8,000 techs at a given time, compared to most commercial organizations – even large ones that typically don’t have more than 100 IT staff. We need to communicate to young workers that there are great opportunities outside the commercial sector. Job seekers, take note.
If I don’t have resources and college recruits don’t see the opportunities, then there is a skills gap that hurts us all. So the message from a guy running professional services is this: we can all do better to provide the skill sets that next-gen workers need – and to educate them on the broader markets for those skills.
If we don’t address the skills gap, we won’t have enough expertise to address market shifts, and we could actually slow the evolution of technology. We all need to pick up the pace and stay up with, or ahead of, the times!
Please send your thoughts on the skills gap and what you are doing to fill it.