Cybersecurity and cloud support will be among the most sought-after skills for businesses in the months following the COVID-19 pandemic and the extension of remote-working policies.

In a survey of IT leaders from companies including Deloitte, Citi, Microsoft and Salesforce, 98% said cybersecurity talent would be “extremely important” to businesses over the next six to 18 months as they entered the next phase of recovery from global lockdowns.

At the same time, businesses will looking to enhance the level of technical support they can offer employees from a distance: 73% percent of survey participants identified remote IT troubleshooting roles as being either extremely important or very important for businesses in the coming months, while 87% said IT roles within cloud support were either extremely or very important.

The survey was based on the responses of 75 CIOs and tech executives from the financial services, consultancy and technology industries that sit on the national board or regional board of NPower, a US nonprofit that offers free career training for IT roles. Among these organizations are Salesforce, Bank of America, Microsoft, Citi, Dell, Proctor & Gamble, EY, BofA, AT&T and Deloitte.

The findings reflect how business leaders have had to rethink their strategies around hiring, tech talent and corporate investment as a result of the pandemic and the resulting mass-enforcement of remote-working policies.

Several major tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Amazon, have now extended the option for employees to work remotely for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. Nearly all (96%) of IT leaders surveyed by NPower said they expect more Americans to work from home post-pandemic.

While largely successful, the sudden shift to remote working has been accompanied by a range of new technical and cultural issues for businesses. Cybersecurity, for example, has quickly become a priority for companies that now have less oversight of the devices logging into corporate networks, and also face the task of staving off unscrupulous cyber criminals attempting to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis.

Yet businesses are steadily adjusting to the new landscape. Nearly 70% of respondents to NPower’s survey said they expected a continued or increased investment from businesses in upskilling and training for new IT skills post-COVID-19. In addition, the majority of executives acknowledged that hiring for entry-level IT positions would be slow for the remainder of 2020 – though added that this was expected to pick up again in the first half of 2021.

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The survey also examined future hiring trends from vendors. Roughly 64% of US-based companies said they either agreed or strongly agreed that their company would increase efforts to mitigate risk and protect business continuity by using both domestic and overseas IT suppliers.

Bertina Ceccarelli, CEO of NPower, said the survey results offered a “deep perspective” on which IT jobs would be most in demand post-COVID-19, and where tech jobs were headed for different industries.

Ceccarelli told TechRepublic: “Supporting a remote workforce has highlighted the need for some new skill sets, including remote troubleshooting, network segmentation, and email support.

“The survey from our CIO partners and advisors is optimistic that hiring at the entry-level in 2021 will be strong and that roles in cloud computing, cybersecurity and IT generalist will be in demand.”