The lack of skilled IT workers is hurting the deployment of emerging technology, according to a new survey from Gartner. In areas from cloud to cybersecurity, this crisis is expected to last for years to come.
Economies, jobs, and personal lives are becoming more digital, more connected, and more automated. Waves of innovation build over time, powering the technology growth engine that appears to be on the cusp of another major step forward.
The United States is the largest tech market in the world, representing 32% of the total, or approximately $1.7 trillion for 2020. In the U.S., as well as in many other countries, the tech sector accounts for a significant portion of economic activity.
CompTIA projects the global information technology industry will grow at a rate of 3.7% in 2020. The optimistic upside forecast is in the 5.4% range, with a downside floor of 1.9%.
Emerging technologies will be the driver for growth, they must be used in conjunction with more established technologies to create innovative solutions.
If the industry is strong and maturing, and if businesses are taking the next step in developing technology strategies, then it stands to reason that IT professionals should feel confident about their future prospects.
Overall, this seems to be the case. The vast majority of technology workers feel optimistic about their role as an IT professional.
In the U.S., 86% of IT pros rate their outlook as very good or fairly good. In different geographies, the sentiment is the same; 81% in Canada, 75% in the UK, 82% in Australia/New Zealand (ANZ) and 85% in the Benelux region (Belgium/Netherlands/Luxembourg).
The primary reason for the positive sentiment is high demand for technology skills, which in turn leads to robust career options.
There is also a sense that the importance of technology to business objectives makes technology a more integral part of business operations and gives IT pros an opportunity to play a role in the direction of the organization.Majority of US Professionals feel optimistic about Role
On the other hand, some individuals have reservations about their career in the technology field. One of the main reasons for concern is the challenge of increasing complexity in business systems.
The trend of skill diversity is not lost on technology professionals. The first step in handling complexity is to grow individual skills, but as things scale up, it becomes untenable for one person to handle it all. This can lead to a feeling of uncertainty and also a feeling that better results are expected even though budgets are flat or shrinking.
Other factors contribute as well. In the U.S. and Canada, there is slightly more worry over outsourcing. In the UK and ANZ, one of the main issues is an inability to pursue skill growth in the current role. And the Benelux region stands out in terms of fear over the perception that technology causes harm to society.
To some degree, these issues are present for any field, and it is worth repeating that a minority of IT pros have any uneasiness at all.
In-demand skills are a major driver for future sentiment, but the reason skills are in such high demand is that there is such a wide variety today.
IT skills of the previous era were marked by a heavy concentration in infrastructure. Now, as companies are maturing in their technology usage, there are demands across all four IT pillars defined by CompTIA's IT framework.
Software development is the area where most companies expect to place focus in the upcoming year, but there is also strong demand for cybersecurity, data, and infrastructure.
Adding to the challenge of filling a broad range of skills, companies are generally looking for candidates with deeper expertise.
Across all four IT pillars, hiring companies are primarily targeting either early career (3-5 years of experience) or mid-level (6-10 years of experience).
This may make sense in the areas of infrastructure and software development, where businesses have likely built a hierarchy of skills over time.
For cybersecurity and data, the situation is more complicated. These areas, which have traditionally been subsets of infrastructure and development, have relied on those foundational pillars to provide the entry level skills.
Now that they are distinct functions, there are difficulties in creating the pipeline for more advanced talent. Over time, entry level positions will likely emerge, but in the meantime companies will have to explore different avenues for filling their skill gaps.
Thanks to these pipeline challenges, hiring is lower on the priority list for companies in the upcoming year. Instead, there will be a strong focus on training and certifying the employees that are already on board.
When it comes to career growth, there are three distinct areas IT pros expect to develop:
Shifting gears from skill needs and development, the other major issue in the upcoming year is diversity and inclusion.
Although 30% of companies feel that there has been significant improvement in the diversity of the tech workforce over the past two years, previous CompTIA research has shown that sentiment tends to skew more positive than reality on this topic.
A wide range of research and anecdotal examples proves that there is still much work to do in achieving equity, from data on wage gaps to the makeup of executive teams to ongoing reports of abusive behavior.
The trend may be heading in the right direction, but the chasm was so wide that it will take significant time and intentional changes to close.
Four out of 10 companies say that fostering workforce diversity is a high priority for 2020. There is a long list of actions that could improve the situation.
Flexible work arrangements, including the physical environment, can create more opportunities and a more welcoming atmosphere, especially if there is a hard look at how the existing arrangements unintentionally create barriers.
Training remains a popular option, though it is imperative that the principles from training are also found in corporate culture.
Some options that may deserve broader adoption are recruiting from training programs that focus on underserved populations (which also has the effect of improving the skill gap problem) and carefully reviewing corporate communications to ensure equal representation and inclusive language.
In 2020, the call for improved diversity will continue to pay dividends, even if fully diverse and inclusive environments still lie further in the future.