While IT skills in past decades were heavily focused on infrastructure, now, as companies are maturing in their technology usage, a much stronger emphasis will be placed on software development, according to CompTIA’s industry outlook report for 2020.
Besides software development, companies are seeking expertise across the other three areas in CompTIA’s IT framework—infrastructure, cybersecurity, and data.

“In many cases, companies are hoping to find candidates with some degree of work experience,” the report stated, “so there is less willingness to take an entry-level generalist and steer them towards a specialization.

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Traditional skills still carry weight

While the data in the Outlook report is consistent with previous CompTIA research, “it may come as a surprise to some to see more traditional skills leading the way before companies are interested in emerging skills,” observed Seth Robinson, senior director for technology analysis at CompTIA.

The reason is many companies need to focus on upgrading their existing infrastructure and expertise before moving into new fields, “so topics like cloud computing, networking, and storage are in some sense prerequisites to the area of Internet of Things,” Robinson said.

But he added that one surprising finding was that only 28% of companies expect to focus on penetration testing in the coming year. “More companies need to be proactive in their security testing, so penetration testing may currently be a little underrated,” he said.
Traditional skills—such as networking, storage, database administration, or quality assurance—have always been critical, Robinson said. “The major change in this area is the demand for both technical depth and collaboration with other technical areas or with business units in order to create complex systems.”

Grappling with how to recruit tech professionals continues

Collaboration is one of the so-called soft skills that is becoming of paramount importance, according to the report. “Beyond technical skills, businesses are also looking for technology professionals that can speak the language of the business, collaborating with other departments in order to drive technology-fueled business results,” the report said. “Employability skills such as communications and teamwork are no longer reserved for those workers on a management track, but now apply at every level.”

Focusing on skills such as communication and business operations will allow tech workers to move beyond a technology silo and become more integrated into the strategic direction of their company, Robinson added.

However, while acknowledging the shortage of skills in the tech jobs market, the report pointed out that “there are no easy answers for how companies will fill these needs.” It stressed that “there are tremendous opportunities for technologists in every field.”
With the majority of companies looking for expertise in the three- to 10-year range, Robinson said they must change their traditional recruitment/training tactics.

“The technical skill supply is far less than the demand, so companies are not going to simply be able to meet their exact needs on the open market,” he said. “There must be a willingness to look outside the normal sources for technical skill, and there must be a willingness to invest in training to get workers up to speed once they are in house.”

The trend is toward specialization, “but this certainly introduces a financial challenge,” he said, since most companies cannot afford to build large teams of specialists. So depending on the company’s strategy, they may lean more on generalists or they may explore different mixes of internal/external talent. “Even for tech workers who specialize, knowledge across the different areas of IT is necessary for efficient operation of complex systems,” Robinson said.

The primary approach most tech workers are taking for career growth is to deepen their skills in their area of expertise, he said. But they must have knowledge in other areas beyond this, Robinson stressed, especially as tech workers move from a junior level to an architect level.

Other tech predictions

The firm is also projecting that the global IT industry will grow at a rate of 3.7% in 2020, with upside potential in the 5.4% range and a downside floor of 1.9%.

Other trends CompTIA is predicting for next year include:

· “Tech-washing fades in favor of real strategy”
· “Workplace diversity will grow in many ways”
· “Tech topics will be front and center in the US elections”
· “Hype meets reality with emerging technology”
· “Artificial intelligence eats the world”
· “Tech industry regulations stirs fears”

Factors that could derail these predictions in 2020? The report cites labor costs and the ability to hire employees with skills that are in line with today’s complex technology demands, including emerging tech acumen, as the channel’s top worries.