Companies report a costly skills gap for a variety of professions, including marketing managers, human resource managers, sales managers, finance managers, and industrial engineers. But the skills gap in IT is unique. All companies – including those experiencing a shortage of IT skills – report productivity losses, higher employee turnover, lower morale, lower quality of work, and revenue losses.
A recent CompTia IT skills gap assessment reveals the lack of skilled IT workers also hinders cybersecurity efforts, data management and analysis, cloud infrastructure, and the development of new software. And while a shortage of skills in sales or marketing might negatively impact a single company’s revenue, a shortage of IT skills has far-reaching consequences in both the public and private sectors.
For example, data breaches in healthcare expose the medical records of patients, while breaches in other industries expose the financial and personal data of clients and customers. Hacking also can impact the country’s electoral process, self-driving cars, smart home devices, and even nuclear facilities. As a result, California needs more than 45,000 cybersecurity professionals, while Virginia needs 36,000, and several other states need anywhere from 12,000 to 25,000 employees with these skills.
State of the IT skills gap
CompTIA’s assessment shows that 80% of IT and business executives are at least somewhat concerned with the IT skills gap in their organization, while 25% are very concerned.
Respondents were significantly more likely to be concerned if:
- They were in the IT industry.
- Technology played a major role in their business.
- The organization had 100 or more employees or 15 or more IT employees.
- They had workers in the age range of 30-34 years old.
Top 7 IT skills gap areas
IT and business executives identify the broad areas of skills gaps as follows:
|59%||Emerging tech (Internet of Things, AI, automation)|
|59%||Integrating different apps, data sources, platforms, devices|
|57%||Cloud infrastructure/cloud apps|
|57%||Digital business transformation/modernizing legacy HW or SW|
|55%||Software or app development|
|53%||Data management/data analytics|
Breaking down the results further, the top digital transformation skills gap concerns are effectively aligning technology with business objectives, emerging software platforms, storage/data back-up/disaster recovery, web design/development/management, and project management.
The top cybersecurity skills gap concerns are data loss prevention/data security best practices, firewalls/antivirus safeguards, cloud security, network monitoring/access management, risk management/mitigation.
Addressing the skills gap
Amy Carrado, senior director of research and market intelligence at CompTIA, tells GoodCall® that it’s no surprise that there is a skills gap or that companies realize there’s a gap. “But what is surprising is that so few businesses have taken steps to address the issue.”
According to Carrado, “Just one in three organizations have a formal process and resources in place to address their skills gap challenges.” And she says the rest of the companies either have an informal process – or no process at all. “More than half of organizations surveyed (54 percent) say they’re struggling to identify and assess the skills gaps that exist among their workforce.”
Carrado says technology constantly – and rapidly – evolves and can determine a company’s success or failure. “These factors alone attest to why it’s an immediate necessity for companies to identify and address workforce skills gaps regardless of size or industry.”
So is the gap greater in some industries? CompTIA didn’t segment the data by industry, but Carrado says the percentage of companies that say the skills gap is growing is as follows:
- Large companies (57 percent)
- Medium companies (44 percent)
- Small businesses (47 percent)
Gaps in skills not only hold a business back from achieving further success, but negative impacts also are seen in key business areas by 94% of organizations.
Closing the IT skills gap
Companies may be too-focused on short-term solutions. “When given the choice between focusing skills gap improvement efforts on existing workers or the next generation of workers, a majority of survey respondents preferred to focus on existing workers.”
Carrado understands this philosophy but questions its effectiveness. “This speaks to short-term self-interests, which makes sense given the segment of organizations struggling to keep up with skills gap challenges.” But she warns, “Delaying efforts to address the quantity and quality of the talent pipeline will only exacerbate the problem.”
Hary Bottka, global concepts leader at Randstad Sourceright, tells GoodCall®, “More new and niche roles are emerging, requiring new skills, and skilled baby boomers are leaving the workforce possessing traditional skills that are not being replaced by subsequent generations.”
In fact, CompTIA research reveals that by 2024, close to 800,000 IT workers are projected to retire.
Bottka believes employees and workers must adjust. ”Employers need to adapt and work with educational institutions to define the types of training and skills they expect to meet their needs.” He also believes that employers need to expand their recruitment efforts.
So, what are companies doing to address this problem? According to Carrado, these are the top five strategies cited by executives as potential solutions to closing the skills gap:
- Better ways to provide on-the-job experience, such as internships.
- Better ways to provide intense job training, such as apprenticeships.
- Early student exposure to careers in IT.
- Certifications/credentials to validate skills and knowledge.
- Better assessments/methods for evaluating the skills of job candidates.