Is There a Way to Close the Tech Skills Gap

Technology is growing and changing faster than the workforce is able to, and the business world is experiencing an IT skills gap as demand for tech talent exceeds supply. This gap offers both opportunities and challenges on all sides.

For graduates and employees, transitioning to an IT career can mean higher salaries and greater opportunities for advancement, but many may not be able to afford the cost or the time of acquiring these skills. For employers, the IT skills gap means that top tech talent can give them a real competitive edge, but recruiting and retaining talent is more difficult when demand is high.

How can this problem actually be solved? Some organizations are already taking steps to raise awareness of the IT skills gap, and attract more qualified potential candidates to fill the void between rapid IT growth and a slowly adapting workforce.

Education: The first key to closing the skills gap

Many students and adult learners believe that a four-year degree is required for an IT career. But the fact is that many employers are dropping requirements for a bachelor’s degree and hiring for skill levels over education — and in fact, almost 30 percent of Americans with associates’ degrees earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

The skills gap can be narrowed by making affordable two-year schools more attractive to IT candidates. Showing them the numbers can help: in addition to the earning potential for associates’ degree holders, the current breakdown of degrees held by IT engineers is:

  • Community colleges: 44 percent
  • Bachelor’s degrees: 50 percent
  • Master’s degrees: 30 percent

Nearly half of IT engineers in the workforce hold only an associates’ degree. The quality of community college education is rising as well — with 46 states having adopted rigorous Common Core Standards for math, and 20 states considering the recently released Next Generation Science Standards to boost the quality and rigor of school-taught sciences.

Looking within: Re-skill existing employees

When companies need to fill IT positions, many launch extensive and costly recruiting campaigns that are designed to attract top talent — both job seekers and passive candidates who are working for other companies. But there may be a better solution, one that helps to close the IT skills gap: re-train existing employees to fill open positions.

External hiring costs a business 20 percent more than internal hiring. When you re-skill your current employees, you’ll not only save money, but also expand the general IT talent pool and help to narrow the skills gap. Consider the following when you look into re-training employees:

  • Know your team. Some of your employees may already have the skills you need to fill IT positions. In fact, 75 percent of employees feel that their employers are not leveraging their work experience.
  • Investment pays off. Investing in employee training and development accomplishes more than re-skilled workers. Employees who receive training from their companies are more loyal, more satisfied, and more productive.
  • Use the resources you have. Internal staff training is more convenient and cost-effective for most companies. You can also augment your training program with contractors, who represent a lower investment than hiring more full-time employees.
  • From a distance. Distance learning and e-learning are less costly than sending employees to campuses for training. These options are also more convenient for busy employees who are trying to balance work, family, and education.

Seek out IT education partnerships

Colleges and universities are willing to work in collaboration with organizations looking to train employees or hire IT graduates. Programs like the National Math and Science Initiative have been developed to increase enthusiasm for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education and career paths, with staggering results. After the first year of the program, qualifying scores on AP Math, Science, and English exams increased by 79 percent for students within the NM&S initiative, compared to a seven percent increase nationally.

A recently developed online education partnership between Udacity, Georgia Tech, and AT&T offers great opportunities for IT students and candidates. Participants in this partnership program can receive a Master’s degree in computer science, called an Online Master of Science, for under $7,000 total.

Education, information, and collaboration are the keys to closing the IT skills gap and ensuring there’s enough tech talent to go around. To learn more about closing the skills gap, contact IT and recruiting experts, The Armada Group, today.

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4 Productivity Apps to Advance Your Job Search

Looking for a job can get hectic. There’s so much to do and keep track of, it might seem like a miracle when you get anything done at all. But many job seekers have a powerful tool that can be used to stay organized, boost your productivity, and streamline your job search — your iPhone or iPad.

Here are four great productivity apps for iOS and OS X devices that can give you a hand in finding the perfect job.

Mail

For job seekers, email is crucial. Apple’s Mail program allows you to easily connect to and manage your email account from your device, whether you’re using IMAP, POP3, an Exchange server, or a web-based service like Gmail.

Mail is designed to be user-friendly on a smaller screen. This streamlined application focuses on the tasks and information you use most often, and offers rich functionality such as support for multiple email accounts and multiple signatures, and a Smart Mailbox that automatically alerts you of critical messages — like interview requests from potential employers.

The best part is that Mail is already built into the OS X platform, so you can start using it right away to configure your inbox for your job search.

iWork Suite

Similar to Google Docs, the iWork suite comes with programs for creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Like Mail, this app is designed for easy use on a small screen, and the interface is intuitive when it comes to common tasks.

The individual apps are Pages for word processing, Keynote for presentations, and Numbers for spreadsheets. The iWork bundle includes a large collection of professional templates, including several for resumes and cover letters. With iCloud integration, you can also quickly share any content created in iWork.

This app bundle is free for devices using OS X and iOS 7 and later.

WriteRoom

Need to focus on writing a killer cover letter, taking notes on prospective employers, or preparing great answers to interview questions? WriteRoom helps you out by eliminating distractions so you can focus on the task at hand.

This full-screen app has an old-school feel, with green text on a black background. Distractions are eliminated with a simple interface that doesn’t contain all the bells and whistles of other word processing programs. And while using WriteRoom, your email alerts and other notifications are blocked to help you avoid the procrastination of checking your messages every five minutes to see if you have a job offer yet.

Scapple

A whiteboard can be a great brainstorming and planning tool for job seekers, but they’re not exactly portable. Scapple turns your iPhone or iPad into an electronic whiteboard that allows you to quickly build lists and ideas, specify relationships intuitively, and capture the results in PDF format.

This nonlinear planning tool encourages creativity in your job search. Some of the features include the ability to change font colors, backgrounds, and note shapes, add or edit arrows to indicate relationships, and a drag-and-drop interface for organizing and combining notes.

The app comes with a free 30-day trial, and costs $14.99 to purchase.

Need help in your search for a new IT career? The Armada Group can help! We specialize in placing job seekers in top IT positions throughout the nation. Contact us today to learn more.

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Friday, Sep 12 2014

IT’s Role in Clean Energy

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ITs Role in Clean Energy

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, there are massive changes taking place in the energy and utility industry. The energy grid that’s currently in use has been around for a long time — and the aging infrastructure is costly, inefficient, and unreliable. The world is moving toward standardized clean energy technology, and smart grids are at the heart of this movement.

There are a number of different technologies currently fueling growth in the smart grid industry, in both core and grid-edge areas. These include:

  • Smart meters, sensors, and software
  • Transmission gear technologies
  • Distribution automation through flexible, intelligent distribution systems
  • Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology
  • Charging stations for electric vehicles
  • Demand response systems

Here are some facts about smart grids, and the role IT will play in the future of cleaner, more intelligent energy distribution, storage, and management.

Smart grids are substantially more efficient

The longer something has been in use, the more likely it is to fail. This is the case with the current energy grid — failure is more frequent, and it costs everyone. While the existing electricity system has 99.97 percent reliability, power interruptions and outages still occur, and cost Americans an average of $150 billion or more each year — roughly $500 per person.

Aging infrastructures, retiring professionals, and the increasing use of solar and other distributed power generation resources are leading to gaps in safety and stability. Smart grids are becoming increasingly necessary to support — and eventually replace — a grid that is already relying more on newer technologies to sustain operation.

Companies are creating smart grid-based services

For hardware and software vendors, smart grid technology offers the potential for a range of management services that will benefit consumers and the energy industry. Examples of smart grid-enabled service include:

  • Home energy management
  • Asset management and condition monitoring
  • Demand response services
  • Advanced metering infrastructures
  • Automation for distribution and substation communications
  • Software solutions and analytics

A market forecast from Navigant Research predicts that the global market for services based on smart grid technology will grow from $1.7 billion in 2014, to over $11.1 billion by 2023.

Workforce development is vital to smart grid success

Many STEM-related careers are already experiencing talent shortages. In the coming years, this is expected to increase — and jobs relating to smart grids will be among the most pressing. To meet this need, the U.S. Department of Energy backs and promotes the Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology Solutions, which works with universities and other institutions to advance the smart grid through the development of new methods and technologies.

One of the largest categories in the smart grid industry is likely to be the market for IT solutions, and IT smart grid jobs will be in high demand. From transmission upgrades to analytics solution, smart grid IT is expected to grow as an industry to more than $23 billion by 2023.

Data scientists who work with smart grid technologies will also be in high demand, but many utility companies will be unable to afford the creation of a dedicated data scientist role. For this reason, some are turning to outsourced solutions that allow multiple utility clients to leverage one expert — a strategy that is likely to become more popular as smart grid technology spreads.

For more information on IT’s role in clean energy, or to find candidates who understand the necessity for implementing this type of technology in your workplace, contact The Armada Group today.

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Wednesday, Sep 10 2014

5 Makerspaces All Techies Can Use

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5 Makerspaces all Techies Can Use

Makerspaces are a new phenomenon that’s currently exploding in popularity. The term “makerspace” refers to a shared community space that provides access to cutting-edge tools for techies, students, inventors, and anyone interested in making.

There is no set definition for what makerspaces offer. They might contain anything from classes on using the latest Firefox browser, to industrial sewing machines and metalworking tools, to 3D printers and laser cutters. And these communal facilities are popping up everywhere.

Here are five makerspaces in various U.S. locations that any techie would love:

Artisan’s Asylum

Location: Somerville, MA

Fees: $85 for a 5-pack of day passes, $60 to $150 per month memberships, various fees for work space, storage space, and classes

Website: Artisan’s Asylum

At Artisan’s Asylum, diverse users share a space that offers a wide range of classes, and a comprehensive selection of tools and equipment. The space is divided into shops that include a computer lab, a rapid prototyping lab with 3D printers and laser cutters, welding shop, wood shop, machine shop, jewelry and lampworking shop, electronics lab, and many more.

ChiPubLib Maker Lab

Location: Chicago, IL

Fees: Free classes and associated materials, materials fee for open shop time

Website: ChiPubLib Maker Lab

This makerspace is part of the Chicago public library system. Launched in 2013, the ChiPubLib Maker Lab holds regular events, lab classes, and workshops, with use of tools and equipment that include 3D software and 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, and a milling machine.

ATX Hackerspace

Location: Austin, TX

Fees: Memberships starting at $60 per month, varying fees for workspace and storage space

Website: ATX Hackerspace

With classes from auto repair and bartending to web development and replication, and sponsored events that include chiptune concerts and a Global Game Jam, ATX Hackerspace provides a community for creators. Frequent meetings and events provide motivation and encouragement, and memberships include personal storage space and unlimited classes. Available equipment includes a 3D printer / replicator, laser cutter, a Virtual Instrumentation Suite, and more.

Open Hardware Makerspace (OHM)

Location: Raleigh, NC

Fees: Material costs only

Website: Open Hardware Makerspace

This makerspace affiliated with North Carolina State University maintains a free-to-use open lab space on the university campus. OHM offers skills training, collaboration opportunities, and a wide range of tools and equipment — from hand tools and power tools to 3D printers, vinyl cutters, oscilloscopes, a Geiger counter, Eggbots, and an Arduino-based Polargrapher bot.

HICapacity

Location: Honolulu, HI

Fees: $60 to $75 per month for memberships

Website: HICapacity

Currently in the process of moving to a new and expanded space, HICapacity offers a wide range of classes with an emphasis on programming, frequent themed community nights, and tools and equipment that enable 3D printing, 3D modeling design, working with Oculus Rift, and more. Members pursue everything from silkscreening and conductive painting to virtual reality and brain-computer interfaces.

If you're currently looking to further your career in IT, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group today. We specialize in placing candidates in the fast-paced IT careers they dream of.

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The First Secret to Lifelong Career Success

It’s easy to understand that there’s no single secret to success — if there were, everyone would be happy and successful. But successful people often have a lot in common, and by following those common denominators, you can achieve what you want from your career.

Here’s an example. What do Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and New York Times bestselling author Greg McKeown have in common? All three of these incredibly successful people believe that the most important factor in their success is, in a word: Focus.

Finding your focus — as a noun, and a verb — is the first step toward lifelong success in whatever career you’ve chosen.

The two meanings of focus

In a recent article on LinkedIn, McKeown states, “When people speak of focus, they usually mean having a single goal. It is a static thing, a thing you have.” This is focus as a noun — a fixed point around which all of your career activities are based. Your focus is your objective, the thing you want to achieve.

But in order to realize your focus, you must have the ability to focus, as a verb — and here’s where the secret to success diverges from the common viewpoint. Focusing does not mean honing all of your attention on a single objective. Instead, it means having the ability to see the bigger picture, and recognize unexpected opportunities that can lead to achieving your focus-noun.

Here’s what you can do to align both types of focus and accomplish your ultimate goal:

Ask (the right) questions

If you’re looking for true career success, your to-do list simply isn’t enough to get you there. The best way to focus is to view your career on a bigger landscape — one that extends beyond the day-to-day and reaches into the future. You can accomplish this by setting aside regular time to ask yourself the right questions.

What are the right questions? Instead of focusing on the next promotion, ask yourself whether you want to be at the same company two years from now. Rather than reviewing your achievements, list the professional goals you had before your current position — and whether you’ve met them, or still want them. What makes you stand out? And can those qualities help you move forward, or do you need to invest in professional development to reach your objectives?

Make time to escape

Have you become your job? Many professionals believe they’re too busy to find the free time they need to pursue their own definition of success — but if Bill Gates can do it, so can you. One of the busiest men in the world steps away from Microsoft for two week-long breaks each year, and spends them reading, studying, and thinking about the bigger picture.

The time to escape won’t fall into your lap, so you must make it a priority to take time. Ask yourself: Do you really need to attend that meeting? Will things honestly fall apart if you take a few moments out of your day for thoughtful reflection? What can you read or do that will spark your excitement and get you motivated to focus?

Remember that your time is valuable

Every successful person has the same number of hours in a day. The difference often comes down to how you value your time — do you claim it as yours, or do you give it away to others in the hopes of furthering your goals?

It’s essential for you to treat your own time as extremely valuable, and remove nonessential activities that prevent you from focusing. Make it a habit to cut down on the number of times you check your email, the number of people you hand out your personal phone number to, and the number of obligations you commit yourself to for others.

When you find your focus and commit yourself to doing something each day to reach it, success is practically guaranteed to find you. If you want partners in your journey to success, contact The Armada Group today. We know what it takes to be successful, and to place candidates in careers that launch them into future success.

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Smartphone as a Credit Card

Mobile payment technology is supposed to be the wave of the future, but so far smartphone payments haven’t gained much traction. PayPal and Google have both made starts with mobile wallet solutions, though neither has seen widespread adoption. Now, as Apple may be getting into the game, the iOS solution just might kickstart the entire mobile payment industry.

Apple and the mobile wallet

According to a new report from The Information, smartwatches and iPhones with larger screens aren’t the only projects in Apple’s pipeline. The tech giant – with more than 40 percent market share of mobile phones in the U.S. – is reported to be in talks with payment industry companies to develop a mobile wallet solution that may be ready in time for the 2014 holiday season.

The report states that the integrated solution would allow iPhone owners to pay for purchases in stores using just their phones, and would involve a “so-called secure element” that’s projected to refer to the iPhone 5S Secure Enclave, which stores and protects Touch ID fingerprint data from access outside the phone, reverse engineering, and transmittal over the Internet.

Deal with Visa reported in place

The Information’s report says that Apple has already reached a deal with major credit card processor Visa for its mobile wallet solution. With more than three-quarters of a billion iTunes and App Store customer accounts — most with stored credit card numbers — Apple is uniquely positioned to make such a deal work.

But a direct partnership between Apple and Visa is not likely to be an exclusive arrangement. This powerhouse combination could serve as the first step for encouraging massive numbers of retailers to accept Apple payments, which in turn would interest other major smartphone brands like Samsung, LG, and Sony in exploring integrated mobile wallet solutions to meet market demand.

Apple and the ripple effect

When it comes to mobile technology, Apple has been a pioneer across every segment. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad each introduced groundbreaking features and technologies that other companies were quick to follow. If Apple enters the mobile wallet arena, this ripple effect is likely to bring the competition along for the ride.

The credit processing industry may experience a similar effect. Typically, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express work to capitalize on new fields the competition is entering — so if the Visa-Apple partnership succeeds, other major credit card companies will follow their lead.

Mobile payments have been projected for years, but the technology has not quite realized its potential. Apple’s entry into this new frontier could provide the push other companies need to make the mobile wallet a reality for the majority of smartphone owners.

If you are looking for candidates who are at the top of their technical fields, or are looking for a career in one of the most innovative companies in the nation, contact the recruiting experts at The Armada Group today!

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