Tech skills and talent gaps widen as innovation accelerates

Report from Skillsoft highlights the importance of skill building as businesses strive to keep pace with rapid technological change driven by AI

AI and machine learning (ML) might be the main areas of focus for IT leaders today, but research by corporate digital learning global leader Skillsoft has found that skills are still lacking.

The company’s 2023 IT Skills and Salary Report, based on insights from more than 5,700 global IT professionals, examines the state of the IT industry, underscoring the pressing need for workforce upskilling and reskilling given the rapid advancement of AI and ML technologies.  

According to Skillsoft, 43% rate their teams’ AI and ML skill sets as low.  One-in-three IT leaders are struggling most with finding qualified AI and ML talent.  

The top driver of skills gaps is the rate of technology change outpacing training programmes. Last year, 45% of IT professionals said management did not see a tangible benefit from training. Just 15% now say the same, as skill building becomes a business imperative. 

“With AI accelerating disruption at an unprecedented pace, the need for workforce training has never been more obvious and consequential,” says Orla Daly, Chief Information Officer at Skillsoft.  

Increasing the scope and efficacy of AI training  

Skill development is a critical piece of the puzzle for building a competitive organisation, though Skillsoft’s report suggests more work is needed to optimise training among technology teams. Only 37% of IT professionals report receiving training ‘most of the time’ when their employers invest in new technology. Furthermore, compared to last year, 40% more IT leaders say their organisation is not investing enough in professional development and 80% more say their current training programs are not effective at developing the skills they need.  

‘Hard’ or technical skills have traditionally been prioritised in the IT industry, while ‘soft’ skills can fall by the wayside despite being essential for adapting and augmenting transformative technologies, especially generative AI. IT professionals rank team communication (40%), interpersonal communication (21%), and emotional intelligence (13%) as the three most important skills for IT leaders to have. However, just 6% of IT leaders said leadership skills will be a key area of investment moving forward, and only 7% said the same about power skills.  

With 72% of IT leaders ranking their existing teams’ leadership skills as medium to low, there is a significant gap between training needs and priorities in this critical area. This presents a major opportunity for businesses to build well-rounded IT professionals by providing leadership training as a differentiator to drive greater innovation, growth and efficiency.  

Building next-generation skilling programmes

Skills gaps, talent shortages, and technology transformation are challenges impacting IT departments. However, they are all obstacles that can be remediated with a well-orchestrated training program that blends multiple modalities and content types. According to IT professionals, the most important features of a training program include quality of content (55%), opportunities for hands-on practice (50%), and multiple learning methods (38%). Online, on-demand training is the most popular learning modality among IT professionals this year (59%), followed by online live training (46%) and impromptu training at work (31%). Additionally, IT professionals leverage a variety of learning resources ranging from employer training subscriptions (35%) and certification prep guides (25%) to online communities (24%).  

“Organisations are at a critical point where they need to be deliberate and proactive about building skills and capabilities – especially related to AI – or risk falling behind in the coming year,” Daly adds. “Interactive training experiences where professionals learn by doing will unlock rich possibilities, creating business value while increasing team member engagement and morale.”

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