How will companies manage skills gaps?

More money? More training? More contractors? How are businesses going to cope with the tech skills crisis?

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The tech industry has always been a bellwether of progress and with it, the ability of governments, educators and recruiters to keep pace with its changing demands. It’s interesting to remember the days when tech jobs were being decimated. Twenty years ago, Silicon Valley was laying off high tech workers in their thousands. This wasn’t a declining industry. As Wired reported at the time, this was a changing industry, one that had contended with a dotcom boom and bust period and was re-emerging into a decade that would see companies such as Skype, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube launch. The tech industry was not in crisis but in a constant state of flux, re-inventing and demanding new skills to enable innovation.

The best way to think about that is to consider the jobs that didn’t really exist in the early 2000s. Front end developers, UX designers, BI developers, cloud architects, data scientists; all have become specialist areas of work, where skills have evolved rapidly and demanded on-going learning. According to research by Gartner, 29% of the skills that were present in an average job posting in 2018 will be obsolete this year. So, we have a market, where demand for skills is growing and evolving rapidly and seemingly, a smaller pool of relevant candidates with the required skills to do those jobs.

On top of that, the number of companies that are adopting technology and therefore looking to employ technology workers is growing. As the Harvey Nash Digital Leadership Report 2021 reveals, the proportion of companies that are essentially ‘tech companies’ will cross the 50% mark over the next two to three years. These companies will be looking to transform this year, desperately seeking skills to fill those essential transformational roles.

It’s a problem that will hurt organisations financially. Consulting firm Korn Ferry calls it a “$8.5 trillion talent shortage” where by 2030, “more than 85 million jobs could go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them.”

The frustration is that it’s not as if we didn’t see it coming. Tech skills gaps have been a constant problem for many years, as the European Union revealed (one of many sources) in a pre-pandemic paper, saying that “Europe faces a shortage of around 756,000 ICT professionals by 2020.” Of course, as we now know, the Covid-19 pandemic distorted the predictions and accelerated demand.

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