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Is the lack of digital skills a myth?

Almost everywhere you look today in the IT industry you will see and hear the same thing – there is a huge lack of digital skills. But is that really true?

The exact answer is “it depends” which is not really that exact, is it? The reason is that there are various of factors that we must take into account. But if you ask most of the companies and even the European Union, they will all say there are not enough people with good enough digital skills and that it isn’t a myth, but a serious problem.

According to “IT Talent Wars and the Gig Economy,” a new report from Appirio and Wakefield Research, 25% of projects today are abandoned because there is a serious shortage of qualified IT workers. The projects that do get finished on the other hand, usually suffer delays of five months on average.

A total of 200 US an UK C-level executives took part in the survey. 90% said recruiting and retaining tech talent is their top business challenge today. It is estimated that 25% of IT staff leaves each year in search of better workplaces. A lot of workers actually go freelancing. A total of 77% of the participants in the study say the “gig economy” will result in loss of staff and nearly half view “gig workers” as less reliable and less knowledgeable than full-time employees. 84 percent of C-suite respondents reportedly said they believe the economy will shift toward gig-based work over full-time work by 2050.

All of this sounds pretty grim if you are an IT company in need of qualified workers. According to Ira Winkler, president of Secure Mentem and author of the book Spies Among Us, there are qualified workers, especially in the cybersecurity field.

“Everyone seems to think that there’s a lack of qualified security professionals, and that the reason is that there aren’t enough people entering the field with the required skills. There is a fallacy behind that thinking, though. People think that security is a stand-alone discipline, but it is actually a discipline within the computer field. Treating it otherwise is a mistake”, Winkler writes in an opinion column for ComputerWorld. He says most companies are simply looking for talent at the wrong place.

“We don’t hear about engineering firms bemoaning a lack of people with degrees in bridge engineering, or architectural firms complaining about a dearth of graduates with degrees in skyscraper architecture. The military doesn’t cry out that it can’t find recruits who are already trained in combat. Why, then, do so many government agencies and private-sector enterprises bemoan a lack of cybersecurity professionals? Here’s what makes me crazy about this: It does more harm than good to insist on more people coming to them with cybersecurity degrees; those degree holders are just never going to be as knowledgeable and competent as the security-focused professionals that organizations can grow themselves”, Winkler writes.

This basically means that what you need to find is people who are motivated and willing to grow in this field. Then they will be even more willing to adapt and develop their skills, go for a few certifications and training courses. It is an approach similar to what Google has been found doing. The search engine monitors users who regularly search for specific programming code and skills. Then it invites the users for special challenges involving the solving of some pretty complex coding tasks. If the user completes them, this can land them a job interview for Google. It again shows that sometimes the best talent can come from places other than the traditional job listings. Then it is simply a matter of honing their skills, which is why we created Coursedot, to help you with that.

Image credit: Flickr (CC) / CTEP AmeriCorps