IT skills shortages: How businesses can bridge the IT skills gap  

By Robert Rutherford, above, CEO, QuoStar

Digital transformation has been accelerating exponentially and the demand for IT professionals, technical specialists and employees with modern tech knowledge is only continuing to grow as a result. Though businesses are racing to keep up with technology advancing at breakneck speed, the skills gap continues to widen too. Without a workforce able to operate the necessary tools for change, businesses are at risk of being left with obsolete systems that threaten their integrity, and the viability of their operations. So how can we address this IT talent shortage and close the growing digital knowledge gap in the sector?

Where is this gap coming from?

The worldwide shortfall of IT talent is a result of numerous factors. Notably, the technology industry is undergoing considerable transformation. Sectors within the industry are growing exponentially and companies are competing for the best talent to instil organisation-wide digital transformation.

Moreover, as companies battle the rapid rise of cyber threats and adapt to a changing tech landscape, they become inherently dependent on workers with specialised skills in areas such as cybersecurity and cloud computing. However, due to the rapid pace of innovation and a market saturated by employers, companies are struggling to attract and retain this cohort of talent. As such, its unsurprising that four million vacancies were reported for cybersecurity jobs worldwide in 2019, confirming that an in-house skills shortage remains alarmingly high.

Crucially, the number of IT graduates has been on the decline since the early 2000s and as a result, businesses are struggling to find talent that meets the emerging needs of the tech industry. Further education is required within schools and universities, so students have an insight into the opportunities across the industry and future workers have a foundation to build on the desired technical skills to thrive.

There is also a distinct lack of diversity in the IT world, with quotas serving as a mere tick box exercise. This leaves whole groups of minorities without the support or confidence to enter the sector. Promoting skills and inclusivity will require long-term strategies to improve diversity and aid inclusion within IT, and to stop the talent gap from widening further.

The impact of IT talent shortages

The struggle to form a digitally competent workforce could have damaging repercussions, particularly for companies which are already experiencing project delays with internal IT teams due to the increasing demand for efficiency and speed in IT capabilities. IT teams are often overburdened with the vast range of responsibilities, and unequipped to keep up with the evolution of their roles, let alone with recruiting new people.

While the pandemic has presented a window of opportunity for remote working, in many ways it has also fuelled the demand for technological skills in highly demanding sectors like AI and data security, resulting in supply of workers not being able to keep up. Organisations are also struggling to enhance the appeal of their offers, and, in turn, retain key staff who are often being lured away by larger companies.

To gain a competitive advantage amidst the global rush to digitally transform, organisations must build agile and fast-moving teams. And a key way to do so is through hiring outside individuals and IT consultancies locally, regionally, and internationally, who can bring expertise to the business in the specialist areas that are needed.

Moving forward and investing in talent

Navigating the future of the digital landscape is now a priority for businesses. It is vital for internal teams to take the lead alongside external support from the likes of IT consultancies, which will enable companies to adapt and innovate at digital speed. There are a few steps businesses can take to tackle the skills shortage:

  • Finding third-party organisations to engage with – It’s worth finding third-party organisations that can support internal teams as they can dovetail into business operations. This can, for example, create space and time for the team to focus and increase efficiency. Depending on several third-party organisations is often considered costly. However, when brought in to advance the efficiency of digital transformation, they can become a cost-effective solution.
  • Choosing a consulting partner – It is critical to partner with a technology consultancy that has the resources to lead and implement technological improvements. On an ‘as-a-service’ basis, such as CIO, CISO and CTO, the partnership can give internal IT teams access to highly experienced experts to work alongside on-demand. The collaboration strengthens the capabilities and experience of workers, often de-risking decisions by providing expert guidance when required.
  • Supporting IT teams with project managers – It is equally important for companies to bring in project managers who can assist with the delivery of transformation projects and programmes. This avoids relying on overworked IT teams and putting pressure on staff who may not have prior project managing experience. This could slow projects down, increasing costs. Hiring project managers ahead of time can therefore lead to substantial savings in the long-term.

As businesses embrace further technological changes and advancements, it becomes more important than ever to prioritise reskilling their workforce and extending their pool of talent by outsourcing to IT consultancies. By closing this skills gap, both organisations and current employees will benefit and be able to progress in a rapidly changing tech world.