autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

CompTIA and the “IT skills gap

I must say, this is a topic that “yanks my crank” every time I encounter it. This time, I find it on Quora. The question:

What’s the Solution to the ‘IT Skills Gap’ CompTIA Highlights in its Latest Study?

I think the reason this bugs me the most is because it’s a non-starter question. But I’ll just let my answer speak for itself:

Quoting from the front matter of the article:

In fact, a large majority (80%) of employers point to at least one
specific business area potentially affected by their organization’s IT
skills gap. Top areas influenced by shortcomings in IT skills include
staff productivity (41%), customer service / customer engagement (32%),
and security (31%). Skills gaps also especially affect speed to market
for IT businesses (34%) versus firms in other industries (20%).

Additional comment worthy of note:

(the)… overall skills gap, the difference between existing and desired skill levels, among their IT staff. (sic)

Ref link:… (Alas, you cannot read the full report unless you subscribe, but phraseology and the above numbers are sufficient to make the following, salient comments.)

First and foremost, it is well worth pointing out that the jockeying to spend as little as possible, hire to immediate need (as opposed to long-term needs or plans), and “training avoidance” by companies are long known practices that likely are not solvable except by the companies who engage in them.

Add to this mix that the demand to (a) produce to deadlines set without fully understanding what is required (money, personnel, AND technology), (b) reluctance to upgrade anytime except when there is active, pressing need, and (c) the tendency to treat both business continuity and security as requisite only when legislated, regulated, when legal demands it, or after an attack… it does not surprise me at all to find that 80% of employers point to at least one business area potentially affected by an IT skills gap.

For all that it must sound inconceivable to those working for high tech companies that “get it”, it remains that such companies are still a minority and “the rest of the world” is still working on the concept. This is particularly true for companies who are in the awkward stages between being “an SMB” and “an Enterprise” shop.

The solution? It hasn’t changed (which should be easily deduced given the story’s outlet):

  1. Stop skimping on training; you’re not really saving money, you’re simply  off-loading where you pay it from (from out of pocket to the aforementioned productivity, efficiency, and service losses).
  2. Stop expecting IT reality to cater to your general ledger and spend more time planning and listen to the skilled staff you have; you hired them for their skill and understanding… use it. (Frankly, if the cost is untenable, it’s usually because you waited too long to get up on it… and it isn’t likely to get cheaper.)
  3. Stop expecting that it is possible to know how quickly the IT group can deliver something if you don’t know (a) what it will actually take, (b) what those ‘ingredients’ cost, and (c) whether or not you have the skills in-house to pull it off as intended.
  4. Stop expecting that you can pay 25% less for a junior technologist and get senior technologist work from them. You can’t.
  5. Stop expecting that you can pay one technologist to do three or four jobs and not have all of them suffer accordingly.
  6. Stop expecting technology to be a field that does not demand recurrent training to keep abreast of things and bring the best and most timely benefits to the company.
  7. Stop expecting those shiny training certifications to be afforded entirely out of your IT employee’s pocket and be willing to vouch their work for those applications when they ask for it. (It astounds me how many companies still will not do this…. see #2).
  8. Stop expecting IT professionals to “automagically” understand any area of IT specialty outside their own.
  9. Stop expecting that you can refuse to fund technology as a primary function; the simple reality is, there are very, very few companies indeed who can (a) compete and (b) survive without dedicated funding to whatever technology is in use (and yes, that includes its employee maintainers).
  10. Stop expecting the answers to magically change; they haven’t in over 30 years and they’re unlikely to do so anytime soon.

Upshot: This isn’t news. Even the fact that companies complain about it isn’t news. If there is any news to be had here, it rests in the simple fact that, in 30 years, it has not occurred to most businesses that denying these things are not going to make them go away. Expect this to continue worsening until it either weeds out those who won’t accept it or they climb, bruised and grumbling, onto the wagon.