Learning & Development

The Race to Close the Tech Skills Gap

A total of 11.8 million Americans held jobs in the tech industry in 2018, up 2.3% from the previous year. To put this in perspective, if that pace holds true, the number of U.S. tech professionals will grow 13.1% over the next decade, amounting to 8.6 million new jobs.

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In order to satisfy the skills and knowledge required to meet the demands of the modern workforce, businesses are racing to upskill their employees. Many are working hard to uncover new and innovative ways to train for in-demand technical skills that are rapidly becoming essential in so many industries. However, without the right components—such as personalization, peer-to-peer coaching in the flow of work, and on-demand, multi-device access to training content—most training programs will fall short in closing skills gaps.

To address their own skills gaps, companies must prioritize a modern approach to training that goes beyond technical skills development and, instead, emphasizes an ‘adaptability first’ approach supported by learning technology that goes beyond the traditional Learning Management System (LMS), and incorporates social learning.

Making Learning a Priority for the C-Suite

In the Age of AI, where demand for tech skills is growing every day, employees are feeling increasingly uncertain about the fate of their jobs in the near future. Indeed, uncertainty and lack of confidence regarding one’s job future is one of the top five drivers of workplace stress. Also on the list? A lack of access to resources and tools to help you not only do your job but develop skills to support how the requirements of that position may evolve alongside the growing influence of technology.

Employees want to learn, but often, HR and Learning & Development departments have difficulty convincing company executives of the importance of training. A lack of access to the learning opportunities employees need to grow and adapt results, while contributing further to role-related uncertainty and stress. Often seen as a hefty investment with hard-to-nail down ROI, many organizations don’t consider training as a core business function.

The reality is, it is difficult to prove the benefits of training programs because all experiences and interactions with learning are personal, which has made the impact of training difficult to quantify. To prove value in a meaningful way, it’s critical to showcase the potential impact of the skills gap on a business’ ability to grow–and outline how addressing this can support organizational objectives.

Recent studies have shown that 62% of executives believe they will need to retrain or replace more than 25% of their workforce between now and 2023—signifying that the gap between the skills businesses need and applicants currently have is real. Even if you do identify an employee with the appropriate skills, it cannot be guaranteed that those skills will be relevant in the near future. This means training needs to be constant and consistent. Additionally, upskilling existing staff is far more efficient and cost-effective than recruiting and onboarding new candidates. Doing this successfully, however, requires an investment in training programs that adapt to the changing skills needed to exist and thrive in the modern workplace.

Technical Skills Training Is Not Enough

To close the tech skills gap, it’s important that training programs incorporate tech and IT skills training. However, desired needs and skills are changing along with the rapidly evolving workforce. Arming employees with the soft skills they’ll need to adapt to this change is equally, if not more important than tech training.

In fact, creativity was recently deemed the most in-demand skill among employers this year. While you might not necessarily associate technical roles with creativity, it will be critical that tech professionals are equipped with this skill as the industry continues to evolve and new jobs emerge. Organizations should be supplementing more structured skills training with those soft skills to ensure a strong culture of adaptability.

To train for creativity, programs have to encourage learners to define their own approach to learning. AI-powered training tools can help businesses achieve this, as they’re able to account for and adjust learning to employee preferences—from learning pace, to where and when they want to participate in courses, to suggesting content that might best support their development, both formal and informal. This format helps businesses “democratize” training, giving employees the freedom to personalize their learning paths and embrace their creativity in the process.

Embracing Technology to Teach Technology Professionals

Technology itself, like AI, must be leveraged to close the tech skills gap. Not only do AI-powered training tools allow employees to digitally interact with learning, they also allow businesses to develop training that meets the needs and goals of employees at scale, which is especially important for businesses that are in the process of scaling globally or are already operating with multiple locations around the world.

Training programs must depart from traditional formats, such as instructor-led courses and a one-size-fits-all approach. Utilizing advanced technology to inform L&D empowers businesses to make this switch and provide the personalized and adaptive learning experiences your employees want and need. This approach also allows businesses to encourage internal collaboration on a shared social learning platform where employees can participate in peer-reviews or receive coaching from fellow team members. Providing digital learning tools that support these social connections encourages creative thinking and a constant exchange of ideas. What’s more, these AI-powered programs not only allow employees to get the most out of training, they allow businesses to track and understand employee progress and identify issues (and successes!) in real-time.

To fill the more than 8 million anticipated future tech jobs, businesses will not only need to train new employees but prepare and upskill existing employees too. With advanced training programs supported by the right learning technology, organizations can combine the soft and technical skills training necessary to find a successful balance.

Matt Powell is Product Marketing Manager at Docebo. Matt is a seasoned, data-driven content creator managing product marketing and all content production activities for Docebo, an e-learning SaaS technology company based in Toronto.

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