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We have a technology skills mismatch problem and only IT can fix it

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The technology hiring (and retaining talent) crisis is clearly deepening. The latest KPMG and REC Report on Jobs shows that the fastest falls in permanent vacancies were seen in the IT and computing sectors. Furthermore, hiring across these industries has been steadily falling since its peak in 2021, and more than a quarter of a million tech jobs were axed last year.

At the same time, an estimated 30 to 70 percent of data, security and development job postings continue to go unfilled, and by 2025, the global shortage of full-time software developers and cybersecurity professionals is expected to reach eight million. Evidently, there aren’t enough people with the right skills to fill the roles organizations currently need.

The digital skills mismatch

This is a significant problem because it has the potential to negatively impact productivity and innovation, and could lead to IT organizations grappling to compete with their international competitors.

So, how has such a skills mismatch materialized? Primarily, traditional educational systems have lagged industry requirements for teaching the latest digital skills. But with technology transforming at such a pace, it would have been difficult to avoid this situation.

In the long term, the Government needs to invest even more in STEM education. Initiatives such as T Levels are a great start, but we also need greater collaboration between schools and universities and employers to ensure that they are teaching the skills that UK businesses require.

Technologies are advancing at an incredible pace; two years ago, generative AI was relatively unknown. Not only does this make it difficult to predict what skills will be required in the near future, but it can also result in shifts in capability demands. Therefore, it would be sensible to assume that spending on training internally is expected to increase. However, the reality is the opposite: globally, IT training and education already represent less than one percent of total IT spending.

How to fast-track technology talent

Organizations cannot afford to sit back and wait for the education system to change. Fortunately, there are several actions they can take now to help plug their current and future knowledge gaps. First, they should start looking for talent early and hire individuals from schools and colleges to build a robust pipeline of employees. Businesses should also reach out to secondary schools and universities to find candidates for in-demand positions like data engineers, business analysts, and programmers through early career internships and apprenticeships.

Where spending on IT training has taken a dive, resources should instead be poured into a more holistic talent strategy. This should incorporate investment in diverse training, with a focus on identifying and developing future skills, and defining career paths for employees. Furthermore, by applying a greater weight to soft skills such as communication and collaboration, people will improve their creative thinking and leverage others' expertise more effectively. As technology permeates every single department, new roles and skills will straddle different functions across organizations. Therefore, different parts of the business must work together better to develop training programs for employees to utilize all their technology and wider business acumen to help foster innovation.

While financial incentives are an important driver for talent attraction, an organization's values and purpose are also important, with 75 percent of job seekers considering an employer’s brand before even applying for a job. If IT leaders can link technology to purpose, underpinned by real action, this will be a big attraction for existing employees and prospective candidates.

Leading digital talent naturally desires to work with cutting-edge technology, so, companies that want to attract and retain leaders in their field should look to build or buy the latest technology. Having a clear understanding of, and ability to communicate about the technology that the company utilises, should give it a real competitive edge in the fight to attract and retain the best people. It will also help improve the employee experience across the organization, as other members of staff will benefit from new innovations and ways of working.

Human resources will be integral to accelerating the talent agenda. The challenge for IT leaders will be how they persuade HR to look beyond sourcing talent for current projects and persuade them that by adopting new hiring techniques and changing internal training, there will be a return on investment in technology talent. This may take years to happen as it will challenge the existing IT talent structure, and new roles, titles, and pay bands could emerge.

IT organizations as talent incubators

Despite the high demand for technology professionals, many job postings remain unfilled due to a skills mismatch. For there to be a change, IT organizations will need to take it upon themselves to act as talent incubators at the forefront of finding and generating the skills needed for the future. Without a radical transformation of how businesses attract and retain digital talent, they will significantly inhibit their ability to thrive.

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This article was produced as part of TechRadarPro's Expert Insights channel where we feature the best and brightest minds in the technology industry today. The views expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily those of TechRadarPro or Future plc. If you are interested in contributing find out more here: https://www.techradar.com/news/submit-your-story-to-techradar-pro

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