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The need for computing and IT skills in the workplace is growing at an exponential rate - far outpacing the actual supply of qualified professionals with the skills required to keep pace with technological advancements. 

But what can we do to close this skills gap? And who is responsible for closing it? 

In this post, we will look at the current situation in more detail, and discuss what both educators and employers need to do to help solve this growing problem. 

What’s the issue?

As explained above, there is a widening digital skills gap - with the supply of IT skills not meeting the demand for them in the workplace.  

A recent report from Accenture suggested that a failure to close this digital skills gap could lead to the UK economy losing out on as much as £141.5 billion of the GDP growth promised by investment in digital technologies over the next 10 years. 

In addition, in the US, research carried out in 2017 by non-profit organisation the Computing Technology Industry Association concluded that at least eight in 10 US businesses were, at the time, being negatively impacted by the lack of technology talent. 

This problem is not just caused by a lack of IT students who graduate every year, but also because technology is evolving at a pace that can not be matched. 

We live in a world where more than half the population has access to reams of information at the touch of a button, which means conventional education cannot keep up. 

Starting with security

IT skills encompass a huge range of sub-disciplines, so it’s difficult to know where to start when addressing the skills gap. 

However, it is becoming increasingly clear that security skills are seriously lacking among IT professionals, as well as among any other employee that uses a digital device at work. 

This lack of awareness of cyber security threats across the entire workforce is hugely costly to businesses - a recent report from IBM found that the average cost of a data breach globally is $3.86 million. 
You might think that younger, digital natives entering the world of business are actually more tech savvy than their older counterparts - and, in many cases, they will be. However, that doesn’t mean they are equipped with the IT skills required for the workplace after leaving school or university. 

And it is with IT security practices that this lack of understanding is particularly clear.  SailPoint’s 2018 Market Pulse Survey revealed that, while employees across the board are careless with their security practices, 60% of Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s) duplicate passwords across work and personal accounts, compared to only 47% of all respondents. 

Surprisingly, 28% of Gen Z also said they would be willing to provide their passwords to a third party, compared to 15% of all employees and just 4% of respondents over the age of 55. 

That being the case, cyber security skills should be one of the main issues addressed when trying to reduce the digital skills gap. 

What can schools do to help?

It’s clear that there isn’t one party solely responsible for ensuring the IT skills gap is closed. 

Instead, educators, employers and the individual themselves need to work together to ensure that the supply of IT skills better meets demand for them in the coming years. 

So, what can schools do to improve IT and cyber security skills among young people?

Below is a range of resources that teachers might want to consider using to ensure their classes have up-to-date and engaging lesson content on computing and IT: 

What can employers do to help?

Organisations also have a responsibility to ensure they upskill their employees - whether they’re in IT or elsewhere within the business - to a minimum acceptable standard, to avoid costly data breaches and security threats as best as possible. 

Considerations for employers should include: 

  • Regular training - there's an opportunity for employers, vendors, manufacturers to form alliances with education to offer vocational skills training so graduates emerge with real-life skills they can apply from day one, rather than generalist theory that's at best a couple of years out of date.
  • Hiring a Chief Information Security Officer - a dedicated CISO is responsible for maintaining security in an organisation, sharing knowledge and advice with employees and establishing security plans and policies
  • Making it a core part of the company culture
  • Create employee development plans focused on fundamental IT and security skills
  • Cyber Essentials certification

What can employees do to help?

A bigger issue is the fact that no curriculum can possibly keep pace with the rate of IT change and neither can the number of fresh IT graduates meet the demand for qualified IT personnel, thanks to the digital explosion. 

What’s more, an employer may not be ready or able to invest in the development of digital and technical skills of the workforce.  

This puts the onus on the individual to either continually self-educate and skill up to ensure they remain useful to the organisation. 

Employees looking to improve their digital skills can find a range of information, advice and training sessions online, as well as externally-run training courses available in their local area. 

There is also a whole host of guidance available through the government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), including:


Keeping up with rapid change

These recommendations are just the tip of the iceberg - a lot needs to be done just to ensure employees have basic IT security skills when they enter the workplace, never mind every other fundamental computing skill that a company would need from a member of staff. 

However, if educators, employees and individuals can make this a bigger priority, and work together in doing so, we can start to make real change and begin to reduce this growing digital skills gap that is threatening businesses around the world. 

If you would like help ensuring your organisation is as safe as possible from cyber threats, or would like advice about how you can do more to train your employees on basic IT skills, get in touch with Evaris today. Call 0330 127 2560 or complete an online enquiry form.
 

Dave.R

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