Can Using the Cloud Help Bridge the Widening IT Skills Gap?
With technology changing daily, the business potential of IT is immense. Yet the lack of education and investment in this area has resulted in a serious and widespread IT skills shortage.
According to a survey from staffing firm Manpower, 36 percent of the 37,000 study participants noted that they experienced issues filling available positions within their organizations, CIO reported. Of those, 35% said candidates lacked the necessary hard skills or technical experience, and 19% noted a lack of soft skills.
These issues, along with other challenges, are contributing to the growing skills gap present in today’s IT and corporate community. However, several organizations have found success by leveraging the cloud to fill in any gaps their current teams might have.
The Skills Gap: A Conceptual Problem
When the issue of the skills gap is brought up, a number of questions arise, including where the skill gap in expertise actually exists. Peter Cappelli, University of Pennsylvania Professor of Management, told CIO that oftentimes, the problem is more of a skills mismatch than an actual skills gap. After studying the skills gap, Cappelli discovered that much of the evidence used to support its existence are anecdotes or survey results.
“The surveys report that employers have difficulty hiring but do not give a definition as to what ‘difficulty’ means nor ask why,” Cappelli pointed out. “My review of all these reports find that many of them actually report contradictory evidence; a surprisingly large percentage of employers say that the difficulty they have stems from not paying enough, not providing training and not being able to anticipate their skill needs.”
As a result, these organizations hire individuals that may not be the best equipped for the position, or are not motivating new hires in a way that helps them succeed within their jobs.
How a Lack of Skills Can Impact a Company
Whether an actual skills gap exists within a department, or it is simply that decision-makers do not have the right people in the right place, the end result is the same: The organization suffers.
Take, for example, a network administrator position. This individual plays a critical role in the IT department and is responsible for network monitoring, testing the network for weakness and installing and implementing updates and security programs. A number of issues can arise if this employee does not have the necessary skills. Certain applications may not be correctly integrated, updates may not be rolled out as they should, or other performance issues could prevent employees from having the necessary technology resources to do their jobs effectively.
Potential Solutions: Recruiting, Hiring and Training
In order to avoid this issue, Cappelli recommends that leaders take another look at their processes for recruiting, hiring and retention to ensure that they’re not contributing further to the skills gap.
Recruiting and hiring are especially tough with the employment disruption caused by baby boomers and millennial generations. According to AVID Technical Resources, “American computer programmers are an endangered species in the US. The number of computer-science students has fallen by 50 percent for many schools since its peak in the 1990s.”
Therefore, retention of employees is important. Employers are seeing the value in proper training and ongoing education. “In fact, training spend has risen by about 25% since the tail end of the recent economic recession. That is a pretty serious trend in corporate spending, especially when you consider that training is known as one of the most discretionary spends in business. Employers are beginning to search for innovative ways to attract quality talent, bridge the skill gap and give employees a reason to stay – employee development is it.”
The Cloud: The Answer to the Skills Gap?
CIO contributor Sharon Florentine noted that the cloud may be able to bring considerable relief in this area.
“Instead of looking to fill gaps with new, quick hires, it may make sense to leverage cloud services in place of IT support staff,” Florentine wrote. “In doing so, companies free up their existing IT teams to focus on strategic challenges instead of watching over infrastructure or managing change.”
In other words, organizations can use the cloud to bridge the gaps within their internal tech teams, enabling these employees to focus on other areas they are more knowledgeable in. For example, there is a huge transition taking place for many organizations from traditional on-premise PBX phone systems to cloud based, hosted PBX/ VoIP platforms from companies like Evolve IP. This reduces the burden placed on IT by eliminating the time consuming task of setting up, administering and supporting on-premise systems at each office location. Instead, voice services are managed entirely in the cloud and supported by the hosted PBX/ VoIP provider.
Another example is cloud storage. The once complex task of selecting, configuring and managing of physical storage devices has been greatly simplified by the cloud. IT departments are now able to migrating data from physical infrastructure, whether on-premise or in a data center, to a virtual environment in a instant. Cloud storage solutions like Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) are making it very easy to offload data where it makes sense.
The cloud can shift some of the responsibility from internal resources to the cloud provider, which has an expert staff specializing in solutions that can help mitigate a company’s unique IT pain points. As this trend takes hold, an increasingly number of organizations will be looking to cloud providers and technology consultants to help them address skills issues within their organizations.
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