27 May Addressing the Tech Skills Gap
The tech skills gap has been a problem for a while now, and as the world navigates the new workforce landscape, the demand for talent will only grow. Now more than ever, tech skills are needed in every industry. Companies will need new tech support to enable efficient remote work. Waves of innovation spurred from the crisis will demand more tech talent. And demands for technologists to help address the health crisis in real-time are soaring. As demand increases, companies must rethink supply. Consider the well-known narrative that the talent gap exists due to a widespread lack of tech skills. This may be true of the current workforce. (IBM reports that more than 120 million workers across the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained in the coming years, but only 41 percent of CEOs say they hold the skills necessary to drive business.) However, this narrative is incomplete.
Its focus is on the lack of skills — a problem inherent only to the workforce. But what if the skills gap is as much, if not more, a result of outdated educational methods and hiring mindsets? This has become evident for tech startups everywhere. When new companies have set out to equip more people with tech skills, they’ve discovered that plenty had the aptitude and eagerness to learn. They either weren’t being given relevant training in traditional educational environments or they were being met with unnecessary barriers to getting hired. Relevant training alone, however, won’t fill the talent gap. Companies will need to open their hiring doors to a more diverse talent pool. Whether you’re hiring and developing tech talent for tech companies or nontech companies (which are also increasingly in need of tech skills), every entrepreneur must be invested in the conversation about how to change the way his or her company recruits and develops for these skills.
One of the key strategies to consider is to start creating new pipelines. Outdated mindsets are impeding progress toward closing the skills gap in a few ways. At the college level, traditional institutions simply aren’t set up to evolve their curriculum quickly and easily enough to meet the changes in demand among companies. The skills students learn often prove irrelevant by the time they graduate.
On the employer side, too many companies are talking about their inability to find candidates yet are unwilling to revise their hiring standards. For instance, many still require strict credentials, such as degrees or previous experience, that automatically exclude a broader talent pool. Today, when more and more technologists are self-taught or learning through alternative skilling programs, these credentials are needlessly limiting. The good news, however, is that even in today’s rocky economy, this landscape is slowly shifting. Within tech, in particular, the skills gap is beginning to close. The Indeed Hiring Lab compared this field to others and found an upward trend in skills matching with available jobs.
The reason for this? Changes in training and employer hiring practices. In the years since starting LaunchCode, we’ve watched coding boot camps explode and a plethora of websites for online skilling emerge. People have so many options to equip themselves for work in tech — and to do so quickly. As unemployment rates soar in various other industries, more people will likely turn to these resources to reskill and find jobs in tech.
But this still wouldn’t matter if employer attitudes and hiring practices stayed stagnant. Fortunately, companies in tech are shifting more toward competency-based hiring, and it’s allowing candidates who don’t meet traditional qualifications to get their feet in the door. This means that fewer applicants are getting pushed aside automatically because they don’t have degrees in computer science or five years of experience.