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Human Resources

Mentoring: A Key Component to Avoiding an IT Skills Gap

IT graduates need more generalist skillsets and practical experience to cope with accelerating network complexity, fuelled by continual broadband infrastructure investment, if the industry wants to avert a potential skills gap in the future.

This position was confirmed to me upon viewing the results of a survey we recently conducted amongst Australian IT professionals, in which only 11% agreed that their higher education sufficiently prepared them for their current IT role.

Furthermore, just over a third of those we questioned cited that understanding broader business objectives and priorities is the single most important skillset required to tackle today’s challenges of network complexity. This suggests that today’s IT professionals are increasingly going beyond the server room to drive results across their organisations, with many anticipating a skills gap without sufficient training.

With IT skills continuing to dominate Australia’s business and technology conversations, we need to recognise that simply boosting graduate numbers or outsourcing technical roles won’t solve the fundamental challenges faced by our industries. Technology leaders and educators need to take a more practical, long-term approach to training and learning if they want to prepare their people for the intricacy and interconnectedness of tomorrow’s IT ecosystem.

The IT and higher education sectors must work together more in order to provide the right balance of theoretical and practical knowledge to effectively manage and capitalise on fast-paced technological change.

Companies should also invest more heavily in staff training to prepare their IT workforce for the ever-increasing complexity of corporate networks.

Of course, this can often come at a hefty price, and that price can be too much to bear for SMEs. This is where vendor user groups can help to ease the burden, providing practical advice on the use of their products and/or services, usually for no financial outlay on the part of the recipient individual or organisation.

Most of the major IT vendors – such as IBM, Microsoft and Cisco – have their own dedicated user groups, which can provide a rich resource of information and a ready-made pool of industry peers to answer any questions you may have. In fact, at SolarWinds we even have our own user group, called ‘thwack’.

Another problem IT graduates currently face is that many of the entry-level positions that used to be available have now disappeared, due to organisations outsourcing and offshoring to fill those roles.

It is therefore all the more essential that higher education provides students with a mix of both technical skills and business acumen, in order to provide greater value to prospective employers.  

Additionally, graduate programs and work placements provide an opportunity for individuals to gain some practical experience to aid the process of gaining a full-time position.

It’s impossible to accurately predict what factors will most contribute to network complexity in the future, but a combination of basic skills and ongoing education will put the next generation of IT talent in good stead to handle any challenge.

What we do know is that major IT trends like BYOD and Virtualisation, combined with continual investment in super-fast broadband infrastructure are prime causes of growing network complexity today.

To cope with ever more complex network infrastructures, businesses and educators alike need to invest in generalist IT skillsets that can adapt to any new trend or challenge, while specialist skills become the preserve of outsourced responsibilities. Only by fostering these multi-purpose skills, and supplementing them with ongoing training and modular, adaptable tools to match, can the Australian business community position itself for success in an increasingly complex IT environment.

 

Don Thomas Jacob is Head Geek at SolarWinds

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Don Thomas Jacob

Don Thomas Jacob is a Head Geek at SolarWinds. He worked as a tech support engineer, product blogger, product evangelist, and tech marketing lead for almost 8 years until he joined SolarWinds in 2013.

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