3 out of 4 IT teams are facing critical skill gaps

An report from Skillsoft finds that 54% of IT decision makers say they have openings they can't fill, and more than a third say they have three or more positions that remain open. What can be done?

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Image: Shutterstock/iQoncept

Education technology company Skillsoft has released its annual Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report, and one set of takeaways stands out among all others: Tech talent shortages and skill gaps aren't going away — they're actually getting worse.

A tech skills gap and knowledge worker shortage are hardly new concepts. TechRepublic has been covering it for years, with coverage going back to 2016 and beyond. Several of those stories focused on the potentially mythological nature of such a shortage, and others reported on experts claiming that it didn't exist at all. Others acknowledged that there was an issue, and that companies knew it was real, but that they had no plan to address a shortage of skilled tech workers

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It seems that the latter has come back to bite us: Skillsoft reported that the number of IT decision makers facing a talent shortage has grown to 76%, a whopping 145% increase since 2016, when people were saying it was a myth. 

It is encouraging to find that the 76% figure mentioned above is down from its peak of 79% in 2019, and that it dropped to 78% in 2020 — a downward trend in this case would be a very good thing. We're hardly out of the woods though, said Michael Yoo, GM of technology and developers at Skillsoft. 

"Gaps in skills don't just disappear, they only grow wider if not properly addressed. Organizations must place a bigger emphasis on investing in employee training, empowering professionals to earn new certifications, and filling vacant roles with diverse candidates," Yoo said. 

The massive shortages confronting the IT industry have caused a chain reaction of effects that has made digital transformation initiatives suffer as changes outpace the skills of existing team members faster than new people can be found, the fact for which 38% of leaders blamed their growing skills gap. 

Unsurprisingly, salaries and job security are up and continue to rise, Skillsoft said, in part due to the fact that companies know they need to pay well to retain talent and IT professionals realize their value to their employers. 

"Average salaries were up across almost every region. And 52% of IT professionals reported receiving a raise this past year with the leading factor being job performance. This also signals organizations are having to pay higher salaries to attract and retain talent in critical areas such as cloud, security, and data," the report said. 

Salary is an important part of whether or not open jobs go filled, the report said, and concludes that it and a lack of qualified people are the two main reasons jobs are going unfilled. The key takeaway? That businesses need to work hard to attract and retain top IT talent. 

A lack of growth and development opportunities was the top reason cited by respondents who had left a job in the past year. Nine out of ten respondents also said that they have plans in place to address their skills shortages, and more than 50% said they believe training staff is the best answer. To put that in perspective, 59% of those who said they left jobs did so for the aforementioned reason of a lack of growth opportunities. 

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The report's conclusion doesn't pull punches. "It's 2021. We shouldn't be hearing that almost 40% of IT decision-makers report that their company doesn't provide formal training options for their staff, or that 23% who have a budget aren't authorizing learning," the report said.

The solution? Invest in people, the report concludes. "A training budget is one of the most strategic investments an organization can — and must — make. This unites the employee and the organization to identify, manage and close skills gaps."

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