IBM Addresses the Great IT Skills Shortage

Michael Vizard

While some folks have some serious doubts that an IT skills shortage actually exists, a new "2012 IBM Tech Trends" report finds that only one in 10 organizations say they have the technical skills they need to succeed.

The report, based on a global survey of 1,200 business and IT leaders, finds that most acute need for IT skills are in the areas of mobile computing, cloud computing, social networking and analytics. To help address this problem, IBM has launched a new IT skills initiative that provides learning materials, technical resources and access to online technical communities on mobile computing, cyber security and commerce technologies through IBM developerWorks at no charge.

IT professionals still need someone to provide the training, but at least the course material is free. When you think about it, vendors such as IBM have a vested interest in making sure that customers have the skills needed to make use of their latest IT technologies. After all, if nobody knows how to use a product or technology, it’s hard to justify its acquisition.

A big part of the problem, says Dan Hauenstein, academic initiative and developerWorks marketing leader at IBM, is that technology innovation in keys areas such as analytics, mobile computing, cloud computing and social networking are moving faster than the average corporation can keep pace with. In addition, many companies, especially in a downturn, are notoriously gun-shy when it comes to investing in employee training when they are not sure they are going to be able to hold on to the people they spent money to train. From their perspective, it only adds insult to injury when those people wind up going to work for somebody else.

Employees, meanwhile, are often loath to pay for training out of their own pockets. Obviously, it’s in their best interest to make sure their skillsets stay current. But even then, the IBM report makes it clear that there is still a significant mismatch between what is being taught in schools and universities and the skillsets and experience that businesses are actually looking for in a prospective employee. Add in the fact that employees are now competing for jobs on a global basis, and it’s easy to see how employees may feel the odds are stacked against them.

What many of them forget, however, is that working in IT requires a lifelong commitment to learning. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to specialize in one particular area, only to see demand for that skill drop precipitously as new technologies emerge that effectively make that skillset obsolete.

Companies clearly recognize they need access to specific technology skillsets to compete effectively, which means the demand for IT skills will eventually break this logjam. But fixing the supply side of that equation is going to take time. Not only is there a need for a lot more in the way of personal initiative, the right mix of government, educational and corporate policy initiatives will take years to not only first implement, but then actually have a material effect.

In the meantime, the IBM report should serve as a wake-up call for a problem that may be felt more acutely in some geographic regions or particular age groups than others.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Sign up now and get the best business technology insights direct to your inbox.


Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 14, 2012 6:14 PM Ian Lyons Ian Lyons  says:
It's inevitable that technology -- specifically newer and more complex technology -- is going to play an increasing role in business success. It's the job of everyone to stay current, but IT specialists aren't going to pay everything out of pocket for skills that are beneficial to their employer. IBM, employers and employees all have skin in the game. IBM should sponsor reduced-cost training that employers should cover costs for and offer their employees. The employees should be willing to take a weekend day to attend the workshop. Win-win-win. Reply
Dec 17, 2012 4:14 PM Greg mills Greg mills  says:
When reading this blog I think of the following parable (which I need to paraphrase, because I forget who said it) - One person asked "what happens if we train our employees and then they leave?" The [good] boss asked back "what happens if we don't train them and they stay?" Reply

Post a comment





(Maximum characters: 1200). You have 1200 characters left.




Subscribe Daily Edge Newsletters

Sign up now and get the best business technology insights direct to your inbox.

Subscribe Daily Edge Newsletters

Sign up now and get the best business technology insights direct to your inbox.