Sixty-seven percent of employers can’t find qualified candidates for their open positions. From time spent searching for talent to lost revenue, the tech skills gap is affecting businesses across the nation, and it’s only expected to grow.

I recently spoke with Josh Westfall, Senior Manager of Policy and Programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce, to discuss the tech skills gap.

The Center for Education and Workforce (CEW) is a grant-funded nonprofit organization, that mobilizes the business community to be more engaged partners, challenge the status quo, and move education and workforce initiatives forward that will fuel economic success.

Josh was generous enough to speak with me about the reasons behind the tech skills gap, how it affects businesses, and ways to close it.

 


 

What are some of the reasons behind the tech skills gap?

There are two large reasons behind the tech skills gap. The first is the rapidly changing labor and talent market. Jobs from 10 years ago aren’t here today, and jobs today won’t be here in 10 years. The industry is constantly changing, and our marketplace isn’t keeping up.

The second reason is the way that employers are signaling their talent needs. To close the skills gap, businesses will need to update their job descriptions to better align with the workforce hiring requirements of today using a shared language aligned across industries that can better communicate competency and credentialing requirements, especially for the fastest growing and hardest to fill jobs

 

What are some tech skills that are missing in the workforce?

This is something that’s constantly changing and changes per industry and job. The fastest growing fields where demand is higher than supply is healthcare, computer and information scientists, and information security analysts.

 

With a gap of 1.2 openings for every worker, the computing industry has the largest gap increase of any technology occupation over time.

According to a report by CEW, “In 2012, there were just 1,061 postings for Data Scientists. By 2016, that number grew 14-fold, to 14,653. The supply of data scientists hasn’t been able to keep up. In other research, we identified data analytics as a “disruptive skill” that shakes up job markets because of its crucial nature to business success, sourcing challenges, and the lack of an established training system.”

The cybersecurity skills gap is extremely costly. With data breaches happening daily, businesses of all sizes are at risk. Finding the right talent to protect your company is more important than ever, and yet these critical roles are going unfilled.

These specialized roles within the industry tend to have larger gaps, “The ratio between openings and workers is 1.5.  Interestingly, the skills gap for an information security analyst is much more severe than for a network administrator (1.1 openings/worker), even though the latter requires many similar skills. Employers who are able to train network administrators with cybersecurity skills can take advantage of the overlap between the two roles and address talent shortages more easily. One additional factor in the information security field is the growth of “hybrid jobs,” roles that blend skills from different domains. Information security roles often blend skills from a range of disciplines including information technology, risk management, business, and business analysis. Training designed for a hybrid job may be hard to come by because, by their very nature, hybrid jobs don’t tend to align with existing training programs—computer science programs don’t teach business skills, and vice versa. Because of this overlap requiring multiple training paths, the skills gap for this role is larger (1.5 workers/job) than for the similar roles which blend to create the position: computer systems analysts have a ratio of 1.2 workers per job, and management analysts a ratio of 1.3 workers/job.”

(Register for our AWS Security Webinar here to learn about security automation concepts to protect your business against a data breach).

 

How does the tech skills gap affect businesses?

At the current pace, more than 5 million positions could go unfilled by 2020, costing the economy about $160 billion a year. That’s lost revenue, lost wages, and lost opportunities. The stats are shocking. This report by CEW dived into the skills gap by the numbers.

  • 70% of executives say current employees lack tech/computer skills
  • 67% of employers can’t find qualified candidates for their open positions
  • 60% of employers have vacancies for 12 weeks or longer
  • 11% of business leaders say they are confident college grads will be prepared for the workplace
  • 40% of businesses are unable to take on additional work due to the skills gap

 

How can schools help address the tech skills gap before students enter the professional world?

Earn and learn and on-the-job opportunities are the best ways to get students hands-on experience. These opportunities are where students can blend technical knowledge with learning the soft skills that can only be gained by being a functioning part of the workforce. Educational institutions must work to develop open lines of communication with employers, and vice versa, to establish partnerships that allow for the development and implementation of a curriculum that teaches the in-demand skills and competencies of today’s workforce, ensuring alignment of skills to business need when those learners enter the job market.

 

How can employers upskill employees?

  • Improve access to post-secondary education and training providers: 

    There is a huge need for improved access to post-secondary education, training, and credentialing opportunities. Companies are starting to recognize the importance of this in attracting and attaining qualified talent and are implementing online training, learning and development, and reskilling programs. AT&T has recently initiated a massive retraining effort after discovering that almost half of its 250,000 employees lacked the necessary STEM skills needed to keep the company competitive. By offering online training and online career portals, this multiyear effort will reskill employees in order to retain them and decrease recruiting and hiring costs.

  • A need for an expanded employer leadership role in education and workforce systems: 

    By increasing the leadership role in education and workforce training systems, employers can help make the link between what people learn in school and available career opportunities. Traditional educators have fallen behind; schools cannot develop tech or STEM programs fast enough to adapt to technological change. With better alignment between the changing workforce needs of the economy and our educators, students can be better prepared when entering the tech industry. The CEW suggests, “Employers must not serve merely as advisors, but must play a more significant role as customers of the education and training systems to ensure their demand for a skilled and competitive workforce is met.”

  • A need for improved employer signaling, particularly around the changing competency and credentialing requirements for the fastest growing and hardest to fill jobs: 

    With demand far outreaching supply, employers need to more effectively communicate the skills requirements and desired qualifications for their open positions. IT departments should be on top of their hard and soft skills needs, and clearly signal those needs to the marketplace to keep up with shifting trends and new technologies.

 

Interested in training up your team to close your skills gap? We can help.

 

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