IBM Addresses the Great IT Skills Shortage

    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.

    Mike Vizard
    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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