Kevin Young, VP and managing director, EMEA, at provider of online learning and e-learning solutions, Skillsoft, discusses the challenge of developing IT skills.
To what extent do you think there is an IT skills shortage, particularly in the UK?
Skills gaps are one of the biggest problems facing IT organisations around the globe. For the UK, CompTIA does an annual survey of UK IT executives and their latest study found that more than eight out of ten executives report they have IT skills gaps within their organizations. CompTIA’s US-only study found that only 44% of those surveyed were "exactly where they want to be" or "very close to where they want to be" with their IT staffing.
What types of IT courses do you offer?
Skillsoft offers a broad range of training assets to meet the evolving learning needs of IT end-users. We offer structured virtual instructor-led training (ILT) courses as well as self-paced elearning courses. These courses are ideal for end users that are looking to sit for an IT certification exam or looking for structured instruction around learning a new technology or getting in-depth knowledge in a specific IT subject area.
We cover a broad range of subject areas within the field of IT including internet and network technologies, software programming, security, application development, enterprise databases & ERP, project management, OS & server technologies, web design, IT business & management, emerging IT technologies and many more.
We also offer a number of other supporting assets for IT users including test preparation solutions, mentoring services, digital books, IT research articles, virtual practice labs and targeted performance support videos which provide "on the job" answers at the point of need.
Which of your courses are proving to be the most popular and which ones tend to fill up slower?
Typically, we notice that foundational level certification courses in the areas of Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, CompTIA and project management tend to be the most popular courses. In addition, we notice that entry-level or beginner courses in various technology areas are also very popular.
We have noticed that popularity of courses that address advanced certifications and advanced topics within IT subjects tends to be limited. Those areas are often best served through IT books and performance support videos.
One other advantage of online learning is that it is highly scalable. So where a traditional classroom-based course on a popular or emerging topic might fill up quickly, online courseware and other technology-enabled learning assets can be consumed by many, many learners at the same time across the globe.
Are you in regular contact with employers and, if so, what type of skilled workers are they struggling to find?
As a part of our regular product development efforts, we are constantly engaging with employers to understand their training needs. In the US, most organisations are struggling to find good software application developers. Employers are also having tough time recruiting good project managers, senior security managers and high level CIO and CSO officers. The major IT issue in the UK is security, driven by cyber attacks – according to CompTIA, the UK government experiences up to 40 attacks per day – cloud computing and BYOD (bring your own device). There is a clear shortage of IT talent who have the experience and skills in these areas.
What are the main challenges when it comes to training workers for the IT sector?
The biggest training challenge in the IT sector is the pace at which technology changes. This constant change necessitates continuous training to be provided readily to end users in the IT sector. This training needs to be provided in such a manner that the user can take the training when and where they need it, without actually taking time away from their job.
Another trend is the aging population in the IT sector, making it imperative that companies have formal talent development strategies to effectively train and skill the new entrants in their workforce.
What do you think the IT sector could do to help solve any problem of IT skills shortage?
Along with training and hiring, another way the IT sector could address the IT skills shortage is to provide a rewarding career path for individuals within IT organizations that want to stay on the technology side of things. Too often, the only way for skilled IT professionals to "get ahead" in an organisation is to be promoted into a management position.
This often works out badly for the IT experts as they are taken away from what they do best – programming and working directly with information technology, and they are asked to do something they are not as well equipped to handle – management. Many organizations that have the lowest IT skills gaps provide career paths for people that want to stay involved in the technical aspects of IT. These career paths provide promotions and salary increases similar to what the individuals could achieve if they left their technology expertise behind to become managers. Of course some IT professionals do want to move into management – we are not advocating that this option be removed!