How a flexible learning approach for IT professionals could plug the IT skills gap

The UK has gained a reputation for being at the forefront of innovation thanks to exciting developments spawned from TechNorth, Silicon Fen and various other tech clusters up and down the country.

For the UK to remain such a major player, the development of digital and technology skills needs to be a priority to ensure we can maintain a pipeline of talent and innovative home-grown technology businesses.

With this in mind it is good to hear the popularity of STEM career paths is on the rise. However, it’s lagging behind the rate of global growth in this area. For example, the EU Commission reports that by 2020 the continent will have a shortfall of 900,000 much needed IT professionals.

Putting this in perspective, this is the same figure as the population of Stockholm.

Starved skills supply

While the government works to solve this problem through vocational paths, labour market regulation, apprenticeships and education policy, the solutions proposed are long term and fail to address the immediate demand for skilled IT workers.

> See also: The visible skills gap in information management

For example, Tech City’s Tech Nation report highlighted that one million digital technology roles were advertised last year alone. The skills gap is an immediate problem both to the industry and overall economic growth.

A skills gap and a high demand for tech talent has also resulted in professionals being in the position where they can choose to work as contractors for hugely inflated salaries.

While this might seem advantageous, this has the potential for long-term and negative consequences for the industry. This is especially true for fledgling start-ups that may lack the funding necessary to attract the digital talent to drive their ideas forward. 

Where this leaves the CIO

Upskilling existing employees is often a neglected avenue. However, the old methods of upskilling are not necessarily the best for today’s developers and IT professionals.

The YouTube generation craves immediacy and wants access to information so they can resolve work-related problems when they need it, whether on the job or on the move. They certainly won’t wait for a scheduled classroom training course.

We know how time-consuming it can be to take people out of action for several days, and the disruption this can create. Pluralsight's research has found that more than 70% of Pluralsight users in businesses learn outside of working hours; there is high demand to develop skills outside of the working day.

An accessible approach to learning

The reality is that forward-thinking companies are making a fundamental shift in the way they offer learning to their IT departments. With more than 93% of companies now using online learning courses of some description, it’s clear that a different style of learning, more focused on real-time problem solving rather than traditional classroom training is already taking an increasingly important role in the tech sector.

However, not all online learning solutions are created equal, and businesses need to think carefully about what their developer and IT talent wants. Developers want to learn from the people who are pushing the boundaries of application design and try new coding languages as soon as they emerge.

Forward thinking organisations are embracing this notion by empowering staff to select the training that’s right for them, and this leads to greater relevancy and higher engagement for the trainee.

For instance, Pluralsight’s Authors are gurus and innovators in their own right – and their reputation and expertise appeal directly to today’s discerning IT professional. 

On-demand learning allows you to address all of these requirements by giving employees control over their own learning. Today’s workforce want their information in a searchable format of their choice so they can digest a short burst of training to upskill rapidly – and on a device of their choosing. 

It gives them the ability to apply their learning immediately, adding context to their understanding. Significantly, learning retention is proven to increase productivity by 14% due to higher levels of engagement and improved time to competency when learning becomes available at the point of need. This means that businesses can deliver their services around 26% faster, just by altering their accessibility to training.

> See also: How to address the talent shortage in big data

IT talent needs to constantly refresh and improve their skills to maintain their relevancy. This also creates a culture of continuous learning, motivating your talent to constantly challenge themselves and learn outside of their current skillset.

What was gospel two years ago is now demoted in favour of new frameworks. In 2012, our most popular courses were dominated by – nowadays it’s Angular JS and C#.

By providing a 360° learning experience through skills assessment, focused training, re-assessment of newly acquired skills, combined with practical exercises, online mentoring and discussion forums, your employees will significantly improve their productivity and effectiveness.

Crucially, it will enable you to build a pipeline of skills long term, helping you evolve your talent in line with market changes. This type of responsive learning will ensure your talent remains agile and innovative so it can evolve alongside the business’ strategy in the long term, not just stemming short-term skills gaps.

Sourced from Julian Wragg, EMEA director, Pluralsight

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

Related Topics

IT Skills