Overcoming the IT Skills Gap

By Steve Quarles on April 7, 2015 in IT Hiring, IT Salary


In recent posts, we’ve discussed the skyrocketing demand for talented high-tech professionals, especially in Southern California. Unemployment continues to decrease, which surely means that many of the open positions out there are getting filled. Employers are winning top talent to their team with a careful balance of competitive IT salaries, outstanding growth opportunities, and a host of awesome perks and bonuses.

But beyond this sunny outlook, the truth is that many organizations simply don’t have the resources or infrastructure to compete, and when the small selection of top talent is exhausted, they’re left with an increasingly unqualified pool of candidates. So while some jobs are getting filled, many others are staying open for long periods of time – or they’re being filled with employees who simply aren’t up to par, which ultimately holds the employer back from exceeding their business goals. In fact, according to Udemy – an online marketplace for web-based courses, almost three quarters of HR professionals realize their employees are under-qualified for their jobs.

Is the IT Skills Gap a Myth?

The IT skills gap is one of those buzz topics in today’s economy that naturally incites a lot of controversy. In a world overflowing with data, it can be easy to pull statistics in a highly biased manner, forcing the numbers to work for you no matter what side of the argument you’re on.

Economist Paul Krugman sees people making the following argument: “We live in a period of unprecedented technological change, and too many American workers lack the skills to cope with that change.”

With compounding data and statistics, it’s a compelling argument, but Krugman disagrees vehemently. He says that technology isn’t moving nearly as fast as we imagine it to be; and furthermore, there’s little evidence that such a gap is negatively impacting employment. His debate is pretty airtight, but once again, it’s a matter of perspective.

The Reality of California’s IT Skills Gap

It’s true that the unemployment rate is steadily decreasing – in California, the 6.7% unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since June 2008, and Orange County’s unemployment rate is at an impressive 4.6%. But despite this, jobs remain open for long periods of time. This is a strong indicator that there is indeed a skills gap.

Other indicators include the reality that over the current decade, 60% of all job openings will result from Baby Boomers leaving the workforce to retire. Additionally, it’s estimated that about a third of all California’s jobs will require postsecondary education by 2020, which is more than the current workforce can handle.

Overcoming the IT Skills Gap

While economists like Krugman may discredit the skills gap at a conceptual level, many leaders with a hand in hiring have experienced the reality. In response, the State of California has established a task force to help overcome the increasing skills gap in the state’s workforce. The task force is focused on STEM education initiatives as well as analysis and evolution of the infrastructure surrounding skills training and jobs tools.

There are other options employers should keep on the radar when approaching any skills gap that they perceive in their organization.

  • Training Programs: Most organizations have some sort of training program in place for onboarding new employees, but what about beyond that first step? As your business goals evolve, as you implement new processes and technologies, and as you adapt to new generations of customers, training and employee development should be at the forefront of your company. This is particularly true in the IT field, where new technology trends pop up everyday. Even if your employees are skilled in the areas you need today, giving them the opportunity to learn above and beyond those skills is conducive to a forward thinking approach, which will greatly benefit your organization.
  • Forecasting Your Future: Training programs are a great foundation for ensuring you can handle industry changes, but ideally, your organization needs to have a solid handle on predicting and forecasting the path it will take in coming years. Companies who are already taking this essential step are looking at who the next crop of employees will be – not just college students, but even K-12 students. Getting involved in your community’s education initiatives and reaching out to future graduates as they actively choose their future career path will grant you greater success in your recruiting strategies.
  • Re-evaluating Your Hiring Strategy: If you’re hiring, it’s easy to write up a job description based upon your dream candidate who is well established in all the required technical skills as well as all the desirable soft skills. If you’re having trouble attracting candidates who fit that description, it may be time to reassess your standards. While we don’t want you to feel forced into settling for less, it may be practical to realize that many skills are easily teachable. It’s likely going to be easier to attract candidates with a smaller core skill set who is a fast learner and can quickly adapt to and even exceed what the position the requires.

Ultimately, the best hiring and recruiting strategies depend upon a careful balance of factors. Whether or not your company is experiencing the struggle of the growing IT skills gap, it’s still important to evaluate how you’re preparing for growth in the midst of the evolving business landscape.

At KORE1 we work diligently to stay ahead of industry trends and continually grow our network of skilled IT professionals. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need a hand in your hiring strategy.