We hear a lot about the “IT skills gap” in the United States, but what is it, really? Put simply, there are more IT jobs created every year than there are people qualified to fill them.
TechnologyFirst.org reports the U.S. creates 120,000 new jobs that require a degree in computer science each year. However, the U.S. educational system produces just 49,000 related degrees annually, leading to a deficit of 71,000 degrees every year — and a growing number of unfilled IT jobs.
According to a column by Gary Beach in the Wall Street Journal:
An analysis prepared for CIO Journal by Burning Glass Technologies, a Boston-based data analytics firm, and CompTIA, an industry trade association, reveals 558,713 information technology jobs remain “open” after 90 days of search. That translates into this jaw-dropping statistic: Every quarter, 50,284,170 days of IT work are lost to the skills gap in America.
But this isn’t a pure supply-and-demand problem. There are more complicated reasons that IT jobs are hard to fill and there’s such high turnover in these key positions.
Let’s take a look at some of those reasons.
Why does a skills gap exist?
It’s true that the U.S. educational system is not turning out enough grads in computer science to fill the needs of the job market and economy, but the root of the problem goes deeper.
For instance, traditional two- or four-year programs, the kind that many Americans aspire to, aren’t enough to get a grad ready for the real-world workplace.
Many computer science programs teach old-school programming languages, and reference operating systems and technologies that are barely relevant in today’s data centers.
Additionally, many of these programs only scratch the surface of topics like IT security, which will be a major industry hot-button in coming years.
Are you looking for ‘IT unicorns’?
There is some speculation in the IT industry that the skills gap is not as bad as some perceive it to be, and that many companies are exacerbating the problem by trying to find an “IT unicorn.”
This mythical “unicorn” employee has all of the skills, experience, knowledge and education that could possibly be crammed into one person — and unfortunately, they don’t exist. And waiting for one can put your business at substantial risk.
Don’t ignore an IT skills gap
Without new talent, your IT organization won’t be able to move forward, explore emerging technology and solutions, or work strategically to surge ahead of the competition.
Companies that fail to address a skills gap in their IT department should be ready for a rude awakening. If positions go unfilled, important tasks will be left undone — or cobbled together by a short-staffed department. Or the focus will turn to basic maintenance and upkeep needs, allowing strategic thinking to fall by the wayside.
No relief for an overworked staff, unable to advance their own skills or get ahead of the curve at work, leads to high turnover — which is another rampant problem in IT these days. Yet simply hiring more staff often represents an economic obstacle and may not relieve you from dependencies or knowledge gaps. So what can a business leader do?
How to close an IT skills gap
The solution, like the problem of an IT skills gap, is multifaceted. Here are some ideas to combat the skills gap at your company:
Start them young
The education system as a whole is a big one for a company to take on, obviously. Take a long view on this and get involved with organizations that bring IT learning to schools early.
Chicago Public Schools sponsors camps, classes and events for kids to learn how to code almost every week of the year, so check out chicagocodes.org for details on how to get involved.
Reconfigure job descriptions
One easy step is re-configuring your job descriptions — and making sure they are vetted by IT professionals and not just general HR staff. Make the goals listed in each position specific and attainable — no unicorn hunting!
Do you need your new IT hire to have 13 critical skills, or can you narrow it down to five? Can a big job be split between two employees? Or, better yet, can it be outsourced to a third-party IT support provider in Chicago?
Shift your focus
When hiring, focus on curiosity and agility rather than the ideal degree or illustrious career history. Employees who are smart, curious and engaged will quickly pick up the skills you need them to have, and stay engaged in your business.
Consider a managed services provider
Outsourcing specialized tasks that are not essential to your core business activities, like PCI compliance and IT infrastructure management, to a Chicago-based MSP provider can lift a great burden. This will free up your IT employees’ time, as well as your budget for salary, to focus on the mission-critical work of staying ahead of your competition.
Is there a skills gap in your organization’s IT department? Would you know how to spot on if there were?
As a leading provider of managed IT services in Chicago, YJT Solutions offers a depth of knowledge, experience, and resources to shore up the IT skills gaps in our partners’ operations. Find out if YJT Solutions’ Preparedness Assessment is the right next step for you — and whether an MSP like YJT can help.