Why isn’t training the first response to the skills gap?

IT departments are struggling to recruit qualified candidates. It’s time for businesses to start  ‘growing their own’, says Glyn Roberts.

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Here’s a conundrum: 80% of IT decision-makers report a rise in skills gaps for the third straight year. However, 42% of IT decision-makers did not allocate funds for training in the past year.

Why the disconnect? Why is training not seen as the answer? For me, training needs to live up to the potential of business transformation to be seen as business critical and not a ‘nice to have’.

Despite many organisations stating that their people are their most important asset, some IT directors feel an investment in a new system or upgrade is more tangible than assigning funds to develop their human capital.

However, people are appreciating assets and, when not nurtured, their skills depreciate. Organisations can suffer because, without the prospect of training and career development, people take their skills and experience elsewhere.

Skills gaps are widening

Since 2016, skills gaps have more than doubled, according to Global Knowledge’s 12th annual IT Skills and Salary Report. While only 31% of decision-makers experienced a lack of necessary skills in 2016, 79% worldwide face skills gaps today.

This lack of available inhouse talent has serious consequences, including increased stress on employees and missed project and product goals for organisations.

Perhaps it is this old-school belief that training requires extended time out of the office that perpetuates this myth?

Adding further aggravation, IT leaders who are in dire need of upskilled personnel are finding that they are unable to hire their way out of the problem.

The biggest challenge according to decision-makers is their inability to attract qualified candidates, with a particular shortage in experienced cybersecurity and cloud computing specialists. So why aren’t IT directors ‘growing their own’?

Workload is often used as the reason why training isn’t authorised – IT decision-makers think they can’t afford to have employees away from their desks taking a course.

But the productivity lost due to skills gaps cost their employees between three and eight hours per week, the results of the survey revealed.

Perhaps it is this old-school belief that training requires extended time out of the office that perpetuates this myth?

Get digital

Like their other colleagues across the business, digital transformation is the most significant catalyst and concern for L&D teams. In fact, for the last three years, digital transformation has been the number-one topic of concern during Learning Live, run by the Learning & Performance Institute.

L&D has a multitude of technology-enabled ways to improve knowledge transfer. Technology is allowing staff to curate their own learning through a blend of classroom, e-learning and social media.

Of course, the flexibility of this approach can lead to governance issues and the sharing of ‘how to’ videos, for example, while an excellent way to capture and share knowledge comes with potential health and safety risks.

Maintaining quality and governance in this new digital environment without curtailing the benefits of immediate, relevant skills transfer is an L&D challenge.

Those that can embrace what can be done, effectively incorporating self-study into more traditional learning and certification, stand the best chance of developing and keeping a talented workforce.

The skills gaps are not closing. In fact, the fast-moving advances of technology is only speeding up. Since AWS launched its cloud computing services, for example, it has annually introduced an average of 200 new features and services.

Keeping up requires commitment. Commitment from the individual, the L&D teams and from the IT professionals who hold the purse strings.


About the author

Glyn Roberts is managing director of Global Knowledge


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