Top tech skills for 2021

Mike Hendrickson provides five data-backed insights for upskilling your tech teams.

Technology is moving faster than companies can keep up.

According to Moore’s Law, computing processing speed doubles every 18 months. For most organisations, they’re running too far behind to take advantage of each new innovation. Is yours any different?

The past few decades alone have seen a rapid acceleration in technological advancements, from machine learning to artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data. The companies that rise to the top are the ones with the greatest technical talent. Technology is the greatest driver of business success, from delivering better customer experiences to driving greater workforce efficiencies.

To take advantage of rapid tech changes, you must take on a proactive learning mindset, or risk being left behind.

The data culled from Skillsoft’s Lean into Tech: Skillsoft Signals Report and analysis of users gives technologists and learning leaders insight into what technology skills are trending and why. After a year of changes that now sees a rapid increase in remote workers due to COVID-19, many companies are no longer looking for just local talent.

Skills are in high demand, but supply is low, particularly for the tech capabilities that your company will need to grow and compete in the future

In the tech world, that means finding top tier talent and retaining your best is harder than ever. In addition, technology modernisation and process automation are disrupting technology development. As many organisations look to update their systems and processes, they are finding they lack the talent to do it.

At the start of 2021, there’s no better time to tackle and close your organisation’s skills gap.

Is your team future-ready? Let’s find out. Below find the top five actions to take to ensure your tech organisation has the learning resources they need to stay ahead.

Enable the power of choice

In the new normal, technologists need options. From on-demand video courses to practice lab experiences, those working from home embraced learning methods that matched their environment.

At the same time, the report shows that live or on-demand bootcamps are still an increasingly valuable way to learn. Even in a virtual environment, live learning still plays an essential role in addressing skills gaps or preparing for certification exams.

Invest in Agile, DevOps and Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) skills

Concepts such as Agile Development, Scrum, and DevOps saw heavy utilisation as teams worked to increase operational efficiencies, especially in remote work environments.

Software Craftmanship is courseware focused primarily on the processes and methodologies of building software. This course area was the most-used category across all geographies in 2020 at an average of 29% of all tech category usage globally.

Agility and collaboration skills are more important in a remote work environment than ever. Agile and Scrum allow for developer teams to work efficiently together and adjust more easily to change, while DevOps can break down silos and expand job roles with a strong central core of cross-trained professionals who have diverse expertise. 

The trend continued in Aspire Journeys, which provide role-based paths for future tech roles. Three of the top five Journeys are in DevOps or Agile Product Development. Enterprise developer to DevOps engineer has 22% of users, and software project analyst to senior software project manager had 14%.


Most surprising is the network admin to site reliability engineer, which consisted of 13% of users but saw usage skyrocket after being available for just two months.

Work with leaders in software engineering, product development, DevOps, and IT operations to ensure their teams are enabled with the skills they need to succeed.

Encourage all employees to skill up on Python

Programming languages like Python are becoming universal skills, just like Word and PowerPoint were in the ’90s or early 2000s. Learning to program allows for greater efficiencies for your day-to-day operations, and for that reason, those skills are more and more sought after by employers.

Python remains the most sought after language – leading nearly all other search terms, according to Skillsoft Percipio search data. The top Python course by hours consumed focused on Python basics and the top Aspire Journey in 2020 was Python Novice to Pythonista.

Overall, the search data indicates that learners are looking for tools that will help them become more proficient across coding languages (Python, Excel, SQL, PowerBI), cloud platforms (AWS, Azure), and Certifications (ITIL, PMP, CISSP).

Embrace foundational knowledge and provide paths to skill up

Moving beyond the most popular programming language, leaders should note other key takeaways from search patterns in the report in almost every area of technology. Many technologists are looking to upskill into new roles or learn the fundamentals of new technologies, and most start with the basics.

Across software craft, security, cloud, data, infrastructure, and programming, the foundational, core knowledge of the topic led the way in search topics. However, data and security stand out as having the most diverse needs in search inquiries of the six major categories mentioned above.

In data, an area that stands out are the tools and frameworks for working with data (36% of search inquiries) are almost even with the core concepts (38%).

Security is a bit more divided. While core security concepts still lead at 39%, the next highest search category is almost an even split between security operations (25%) and information/data security (27%). 

Keep up with the competition in your industry

People are the driving force behind business success and technological innovation. Skills are at the heart of that. When crafting a learning programme, the skills chosen to develop teams must be strategic and forward-looking. Determine which technology categories are in demand.

For example, according to Percipio usage, data was the top usage category across the automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, and hospitality industries. Compare this to industries such as banking/finance, legal, tech, and pharmaceuticals, which were more heavily skewed towards security.

Technology is constantly changing, and staying ahead can be difficult. As a result of this rapid pace of change, skills are in high demand, but supply is low, particularly for the tech capabilities that your company will need to grow and compete in the future.

Providing employees with a variety of resources that match diverse learning preferences in key areas of technology ensures that organisations can thrive in times of rapid technology change.


About the author

Mike Hendrickson is the vice president of technology and developer products at Skillsoft.


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