3 Ways CIOs Can Help Solve The Skills Crisis

Enterprise tech leaders have a major role to play.
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One of the greatest threats enterprises face today is the growing tech talent shortage. Tech talent has been at a premium for years, but the shift to remote work significantly exacerbated the skills gap, as many enterprises have become highly dependent on digital technologies to keep the lights on.

According to a recent Pluralsight Survey, four in 10 tech executives saw increased skills gaps in cybersecurity and cloud computing during the last year. Making matters worse, the barriers to entry for breaking into tech are often impossibly high. Many of today’s most in-demand jobs are totally inaccessible to those who lack proper (and expensive) IT training.

Prioritizing advanced, ongoing IT training programs—targeted at both existing professionals and aspiring ones—is now a CIO imperative, or else they risk their business falling behind. Here are three ways enterprise CIOs can help solve the growing skills crisis and close the divide.

Partner with academic institutions to help foster the next generation of tech talent.

The first step to filling the skills gap starts by nurturing the talent pipeline. Enterprises should consider working with colleges and universities to equip aspiring IT professionals with critical training, business skills and valuable industry certifications and accreditations. Gannon University is one example. Through its partnerships, the university recently embedded industry certifications into their academic courses to provide students with comprehensive IT training on networking, security and cloud fundamentals, as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Many tech companies have started rolling out training programs to academic institutions such as Gannon, and it’s critical for other companies to make similar strides to address the skills crisis. In addition to academic partnerships, enterprises can provide technical internships and apprenticeships to develop and empower up-and-coming tech talent for their workforce and the broader field.

Provide ongoing training to broaden existing employee skill sets.

As new emerging technologies are introduced, this increases the need to broaden existing employee skill sets to keep up with the demands that these technologies require. According to a recent survey by McKinsey, nearly 90 percent of executives are experiencing skills gaps in their existing workforce, or expect to within a few years—which indicates ongoing IT training to employees is just as important to future proof the workforce.

Enterprise CIOs play a leading role in creating a culture where employees are encouraged to partake in skill development and are granted the time to do so. Enterprises can either create and host their own training programs or participate in programs developed by other companies and technology vendors. For example, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Extreme Networks have all recently launched large-scale, free training programs to help equip professionals with key tech skills.

At my own company, we’ve also created an Employee Resource Group (ERG) focused on aspiring professionals where various leaders, including myself, participate in meetings and events that are focused on providing guidance, mentorship and career development insights for our younger employees. Programs like this not only help to attract new talent, but also better enable companies to retain and develop the talent they already have.

Organizations that prioritize and maintain continuing IT education programs are most poised to retain employees as the war for tech talent continues.

Invest in automation and machine learning to support trained IT staff.

Despite flashy headlines that AI will replace jobs, those claims are wildly over-simplified. AI and automation will play a role in the workforce—but to augment humans, not replace them. Once training programs are put into place, CIOs can further bridge the skills gap by using automation and machine learning to assist IT professionals with daily routine tasks.

By deploying automated tools, this frees up valuable time for IT staff to focus on higher-value tasks for the enterprise. For example, AI and robots are being deployed to handle easily resolvable service desk and customer engagement inquiries, freeing up resources to work on more complex tasks in the workplace. These tools can also help save costs for the enterprise, allowing executives to shift toward higher value tech investments. Making more strategic decisions around automation (and how IT staff engage with AI/ML tools) will help CIOs further mitigate the skills divide and keep employees fulfilled long-term.

The pandemic has shown that addressing the growing skills crisis is a top priority for CIOs and crucial to building a stronger IT workforce. Through a combination of IT training programs and smarter use of automation, enterprise CIOs can help address the skills shortage and secure talent for their businesses well into the future.

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