Tuesday, July 8, 2014

CompTIA ChannelTrends: Help Fill the Skills Gap by Inspiring Others to Choose a Career in IT

Monday, June 30, 2014  CompTIA
by Brian Sherman

“Your workforce is your most valuable asset. The knowledge and skills they have represent the fuel that drives the engine of business…” Harvey Mackay, author of “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” and “Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt” surely wasn’t singling out IT channel companies with that quote, but it’s a message that hits home with solution providers, vendors, distributors and others in the tech community. It takes a strong bench of skilled professionals to properly support an IT company’s goals and activities. Without access to a growing supply of these business-critical individuals, the chances of an IT company achieving its objectives will surely be diminished.

Of course, if you manage or work in an IT company, you are fully aware of the industry’s shortage of skilled professionals, though the explanations for that scarcity seem to vary considerably. Some geographic areas seem to have access to a larger pool of capable technicians, engineers and related individuals than others. For many North American IT businesses, the struggle to find qualified — or at least trainable — candidates continues with no resolution in sight. In some areas, the best candidates may not be willing or able to relocate to fill crucial vacancies, or the salary they require is simply too high for the revenue they would generate. Those issues are a byproduct of the current skills shortage: With the demand much stronger than the supply, it’s truly a seller’s market.

Across the industry, some roles simply go unfilled. Companies may get few, if any, qualified individuals to apply for open positions. Some organizations simply give up on expansion plans –and the subsequent new jobs – when they can’t find suitable candidates. Neither situation should be acceptable to those looking to grow their businesses. Simply put, everyone in the IT industry needs to play a part in recruitment. 
With the explosive growth of the technology field, the skills shortage will not go away without your help. The total number of IT job openings increased by 26 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to the same time period in 2014, according to the latest CompTIA IT Employment Snapshot. That’s 98 percent increase since Q1 2010. The total number of IT job openings rose from a little more than 1.9 million in 2010 to nearly 2.3 million by the end of 2013.

Despite the lagging economic conditions and fairly high unemployment rate it seems that, simply put, many seem to be ignoring or unaware of the opportunities available in the IT industry. Whether that’s due to misperceptions, lack of career counseling or a true deficiency in our educational system, it’s a situation we can and need to resolve as soon as possible.

The solution may be closer than you think. Make sure your local middle or high school guidance counselors are aware of the opportunities in IT. Do they truly understand the skills and aptitudes most needed by tech companies today? IT careers are no longer limited to those with strong science and math proficiencies. Field engineers, sales professionals and customer service personnel require great communications skills, as do members of training and marketing teams. Students don’t have to know how to code in preschool to excel in an IT career. The industry typically welcomes anyone with a positive attitude, a solid work ethic and great flexibility, including returning veterans and other adults looking for a career change.

Of course, you could also sponsor internships and encourage others to consider a career in IT, or get more involved in industry recruitment initiatives. CompTIA has long recognized the short- and long-term repercussions of the skills shortage issue and has continually increased the resources dedicated to resolving the problem. From certification and specific skill training programs to community-based initiatives, the association and its members have made recruitment and career preparation a top priority.

Here are just two of the many ways you could get more involved:

Creating IT Futures
As the philanthropic arm and nonprofit foundation of CompTIA, Creating IT Futures offers a variety of support programs and initiatives to help people find family-sustaining careers in the IT industry and help position them for long-term professional success. Creating IT Futures provides educational, training and certification opportunities to those who could use help developing life- and family-sustaining tech careers, including underserved communities such as veterans, women and ethnic minorities. Know an unemployed or underemployed individual who could benefit from these vocational support services? Or are you looking to hire an industry-trained professional? Interested in making a contribution? Contact the Creating IT Futures Foundation for more information.

Advancing Women In IT
The number of females entering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields peaked in the 1980s and has plateaued ever since. With the rise of the IT industry and resulting shortage of tech professionals, it was time someone stepped up to change that status quo. That’s where the Advancing Women in IT (AWIT) Community comes in. This collaborative group of industry professionals — women and men — is working on a number of initiatives to help boost tech career opportunities for women. For example, they intend to reach 10,000 people this year with their Dream IT initiative, which extolls the benefits derived from a career in IT. Led by AWIT Community Chair Doriana Allyn of Brother International, and AWIT Community Vice Chair Michelle Ragusa of Cisco, the group is also about to roll out an informational website to inspire and inform young women about entering the IT field.

Whether part of an industry community or running your own tech company, everyone can help spread the word. What are you doing to inspire tomorrows IT leaders?

Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian atBsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.

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