Tuesday, Sep 16 2014

Is There a Way to Close the Tech Skills Gap?

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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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