MIND THE (SKILLS) GAP

Just five months ago, IT trade association CompTIA boldly claimed that the IT skills gap was closing with 55% of companies reporting improvements within their businesses. However, fast forward to October and the same organisation is predicting that the skills gap will grow massively in the next decade as hordes of existing IT staff retire and the next generation snubs technology.

So what is the truth? And more importantly, how can we get the notoriously lazy and disillusioned “Generation Y” out of their bedrooms and into productive careers within the IT industry?

At their EMEA partner conference on 19-20 October 2015, CompTIA Chief Executive Todd Thibodeaux announced that the future is a little bleak with the amount of people coming into IT shrinking. But with Generation Y – or the Millennials – the first generation to grow up with technology literally at their fingertips, it’s a little surprising that IT is not seen as a good career move.

When Andy Warhol claimed that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”, I don’t think anyone would have thought that 15 minutes was too long a timeframe. But here we are in an age of instant fame where reality shows, talent competitions and YouTube channels can build and break careers within an ad break.

Thibodeaux explains: “People think ‘I can do that’ [sing on The X Factor], but no, you can’t. The world of IT needs to explain things in a more use-case [oriented] way. How does Netflix use the cloud? How does Facebook use its infrastructure? How does a text message work? Things that people interact with every day. [We need] to communicate that jobs in IT are not [about] sitting behind a desk all day and there are good career paths.”

And Generation Y certainly needs some convincing. It’s up to IT businesses and organisations to give youngsters a step-up – without the cost and time implications of higher education. Not everyone wants to go to college or university, and that doesn’t mean these people lack ambition or are not career-driven, quite the opposite in fact.

Ed Gordon, author of “Future Jobs: Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis,” predicts the US is on course for a major skills shortage if things don’t change over there. “You can have all the latest technology you want,” he notes, “but if you don’t have the talent behind it, your business is not sustainable.”

Apprenticeships will support young people on the first steps of their careers and help deliver the skills the UK, and the IT industry, needs. As a strong supporter of apprenticeship programmes, The Change Organisation has had tremendous success with apprentices – employing a number of local young people and accessing funding for their role including training at college. While we provide employment and development opportunities, we are not incurring the immediate pressure of inflated overheads so it’s hugely beneficial to both parties.

But with all the apprenticeships in the world, Generation Y also needs to be realistic. They aren’t going to just walk into the Facebook offices and start telling Mark Zuckerberg what to do. They could try but it wouldn’t get them very far. If a young IT professional has the right attitude and drive to succeed, the industry can still offer an interesting and challenging career path, and one in which they could still be very successful, climb the career ladder and make a lot of money.

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