8 Ways to Bridge the IT Skills Gap

One of the biggest problems CIOs face today is that of workforce development. Though the existence of an all-encompassing IT labor shortage is debatable, many in IT leadership struggle with specific gaps in skills within IT at large.

“We consistently hear that companies and hiring managers have a really hard time finding quality people with the right skills,” says Frank Han, vice president at Robert Half Technology. “There might be a good volume of available candidates, the problem is finding those of high enough quality to do the job.”

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways IT managers can tackle the existing gap in skills and develop a staff that can provide their business with a competitive edge. The following tips provided by experts in recruiting, workforce research and education offer a good start down that path.

1. Invest in training.
One of the most obvious—and the most important—ways an individual organization can ensure its employees have all the skills they need is to provide them with adequate training. The training piece is very big, companies would be wise to  invest back into their people. Because it is often difficult to find someone with a cascade of very specialized IT qualifications, it makes sense for enterprises to hire junior-level staffers and train them.

“That is something I’ve seen,” Han says. “You can save a little on the front end and invest the savings in the long run. You see that especially with companies that are growing. They may need someone with A, B, C, and D but can only find a smart, young candidate with A and B, so they decide to hire them on the assumption that they’ll get them up to speed on C and D.”

The trouble is that even if investing in training may seem like a no-brainer to some, many organizations are skittish about it because of the cost and the worry that employees will jump ship once they’ve skilled up, says Steven Ostrowski, director of corporate communications for the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). But he believes that they are only hurting themselves with this attitude, for two big reasons.

First of all, an employee who isn’t worth stealing by a competitor probably isn’t worth much to you either. And secondly, because IT workers tend to be the type of people who take pride in learning and growing, training is considered by most to be an indispensable component of compensation. Employers who fail to train staff due to fear that they’ll leave are destined to lose their best employees, the ones who crave job development.

“It is a lot more economical in the long run to spend some money up front on some training or send someone to a boot camp to learn something new or to take a course at a community college than it will be to have turnover among your staff every six months,” Ostrowski says.