Reducing the tech skills gap to counter the skills shortage

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Reducing the tech skills gap to counter the skills shortage
Tackling our tech skills shortage may be the single largest challenge for many Australian organisations in the coming decade.
Photo by Brusk Dede on Unsplash

The world is facing both a tech skills gap and a tech workforce shortage.

Technologies are increasingly at the foundation of core processes and operations in diverse industries, as well as both B2B and B2C products and services. The need for tech experts to develop, run and secure these technologies has never been so high, but the speed at which new tech experts enter the market doesn’t keep pace. And for those technologists already in the market, many mention they don’t feel confident in the key tech skills needed to perform their roles.

This feeling has been exacerbated by the pandemic, according to Pluralsight's new survey. The annual report, recently conducted across the globe, measures the state of upskilling in the technology workforce. It found that as many as 2 in 5 technologists reported themselves as underskilled in key areas such as cloud management, cybersecurity and data storage. Unfortunately, the pandemic has increased this sentiment, and also dramatically degraded their confidence in their skills, from 84% last year, to 71% this  .

How do we address this sentiment and the tech skills shortage? Currently, border closures and tight visa requirements are affecting the supply and demand of Australia’s tech talent. Additionally, our schools don’t produce enough tech talent. These are issues that have been raised by the tech community in the past year. But whilst they can’t do much about the shortage of profiles, organisations have control on how they bridge the skills gap and build a pipeline of talent—that is if they have the right strategies for upskilling and training their workforce.

A Matter of Time

Our survey revealed that technologists value upskilling and professional development more than their compensation when looking at their job satisfaction, or considering new job opportunities. Most organisations are showing a genuine willingness to foster training and upskilling, with the report stating that 96% of companies are providing resources to develop tech skills. However, the reality is that they are not often effective.

In fact, up to 2 in 5 technologists said that time, or lack thereof, is a major barrier to upskilling. Their organizations are not allotting time for them to take advantage of these resources. And the amount of time necessary may not be as high as company leaders expect, with a quarter of technologists wishing for only one to two hours of training per week.

Allowing employees to use small windows of time to upskill can have a positive impact on job satisfaction, engagement, productivity and the quality of the work delivered. There is a need for the C-suite to revisit their approach to upskilling and training, and create an environment that is more conducive to effective upskilling across the board.

See beyond the primary benefits

Upskilling is essential in improving the overall organisation knowledge base, but beyond this primary purpose lies additional benefits that company leaders may not have in mind when considering their training and upskilling programs.

With job satisfaction stagnating at a fairly low 60% among individual contributors, a solid training program, with opportunities for growth, continuous learning and a mentally stimulating environment can turn into a powerful retention and talent attraction tool for organisations. Another thing to consider when thinking about upskilling is that improving tech skills is an added value for an organisation, but also for its customers.

Often companies fail to consider how upgrading their workforce’s skills can become a promotional tool to customers and potential prospects, and a justification for more premium products, services and potentially prices.

Combine theory and practice

Understandably, technologists have mostly used training tools adapted to a remote model in the past months, with online development platforms, learning management systems, books and guides, or MOOCs and user-generated content being the resources they mentioned the most. But there is only so much that you can do with theory - technologists flagged a significant appetite for hands-on training.

Upwards of 4 in 5 respondents state that hands-on learning is part of learning tech skills and solidifies the theory. Additionally, well over 50% who have access to hands-on experience are also the most satisfied with their job, with 3 in 4 reporting higher job satisfaction. Although workers usually share a diverse set of learning styles and preferences, the benefits of hands-on learning can’t be denied.

Tackling our tech skills shortage may be the single largest challenge for many Australian organisations in the coming decade. Our research shows that businesses could take upskilling to another level, allocating the right amount of time and budget available for technologists to be fully satisfied with upskilling programs, directly impacting their satisfaction at work.

Mike Featherstone is Managing Director ANZ/APAC, Pluralsight.

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