As technologies deepen the creative possibilities for companies worldwide, there has never been more urgency to attract the right skills. Is it possible that as devices of all kinds permeate societies, cultures and businesses across the globe, technology has become a commodity, a competitive advantage, a skill, and an industry?
Looking ahead, 2024 might just be a pivotal year for artificial intelligence (AI) applications, amongst a busy agenda of other technology-related projects. But without the expertise to drive innovation in IT, how will businesses compete? Better yet, what exactly will happen if the IT skills shortage widens any further?
Mind the Gap: Let’s Talk Talent (And Your Technologies)
After more than 40 years in regulated markets, CSI understands how skilled IT technicians have become as much a commodity as the technology they manage. Modern businesses, especially those who rapidly digitalised during the global pandemic, will have technology at the centre of their operations.
Commercially, artificial intelligence has turned an inflection point in the UK and beyond, capturing the attention of nearly every boardroom just as executives strategise their roadmaps for the years ahead. What the AI story captures is far bigger than mindshare, but it speaks to an urgency to find the right talent that helps your business modernise with emergent technologies in new, meaningful ways.
As recent as September 2023, Forbes updated its IT Skills Gap Report (2023) to headline a concerning trend whereby technologies retire and renew, but the critical skillsets remain scarce and, oftentimes, out of reach. If a global manufacturing firm can’t attract the expertise it requires, there’s a kind of damaging cause-and-effect, stifling its technological advancement. After surveying businesses, Forbes’ Report concluded that finding IT skills from our current workforce is more urgent than ever, but those skills are increasingly hard to find, attract or retain.
Did you know… skills shortages in tech have been reported for more than a decade. In 2022, the BBC reported on almost nationwide anxiety in the UK that skills shortages in tech could be stymie business operations and more. So deep were those fears, that government representatives, policymakers, and strategists have mapped out initiatives to level up technology skilling across the UK’s workforce.
The (Current) State of the IT Skills Market
By many estimations, today’s IT skills shortage is the most problematic it has ever been. The skills shortage describes more than a lack of IT expertise. The demand and pace of emergent technologies – and the critical role IT plays in any operation – has put increased pressure on finding new ways to onboard, deploy, modernise, secure, and even sunset areas of a business like its storage solution, security layers, or even its core infrastructure since cloud platforms reimagined what agility could look like.
If the tech skills shortage story had a timeline, it would be long and winding. Listening to our partners and customers, CSI has learned over the years that the challenge with skills shortages is common. In conversation with a leading London university, for example, it was quickly discovered that limited cyber security skills were compromising the maturity of the institution’s overall security posture. In another example, CSI was able to design and deploy a cutting-edge AI solution to help personalise patient treatments. In this instance, expertise can be shared through specialist solutions.
The challenge with attracting and retaining IT skillsets within a business is exaggerated by the urgency to digitally transforms and modernise. According to the Digital Leadership Report, as much as 67% of senior technology leaders cite lack of skills as a reason why their companies are falling behind the pace of change. Noticing how digital skills are scare, The State of the Nation Report asked, “what keeps you up at night?”. In response, leaders felt anxious about the typical challenges with cyber security threats. Interestingly, but not surprisingly skill shortages were amongst the top concerns.
What’s so challenging about today’s skills shortage?
There’s a widening gap between the skills in the market today and the technology capabilities that will be in high demand in the near future. It’s worth expanding out how we define the skills gap (as an independent phenomenon from a skills shortage), which captures the shortfall of skilled technicians behind emerging technologies.
If the skills gaps widens in 2024, then, will there be a noticeable distance between available talent and the technologies that enter the market? It depends.
Let’s take a close look at the skills shortage in the context of the UK.
Is there a Skills Shortage in the UK?
In 2019, the UK Government identified ‘digital skills’ as a core, and ultimately competitive, competency that must be trained into the UK workforce. Digital skills have economic relevance, the report found, as much as the ability to reshape the country’s technology landscape. This was a critical moment for the coverage of IT skills in the popular consensus – not unlike preservation acts for the countryside, UK policymakers wanted to refocus on the IT landscape by addressing the shortfall in available talent to match demand around new digital projects.
There has long been an IT skills shortage in the UK. This has been just as problematic for the NHS as it has been for manufacturers, retailers, bankers and financiers, and more.
In 2023, a reported 95% of employers experienced difficulties recruiting in the seemingly narrow field of technology. Since the pandemic, the UK has rapidly digitised and is now forecast to become the epicentre of global AI regulation. Further afield, recruitment trends like “quiet quitting” and the now-infamous “Great Resignation” period, along with remote working, has changed the availability of skills within the UK’s workforce. Likewise, tech professionals are increasingly aligning their careers to place of work that look and feel modern – sustainability, for example, is now a priority for recruiters.
The Cybersecurity Skills Gap
Nowhere more is this concept of a ‘wide gap’ between talent and technology’s coming into demand more relevant than cybersecurity. The World Economic Forum calculated the shortfall in cybersecurity capabilities, noticing a shortage of 3.4 million security experts.
Are you looking for a Chief Information Security Officer? As a senior cybersecurity leader, the CISO underpins the strategic alignment of security tooling to a business’ wider objectives and operations. Yet, industries like banking and finance don’t often have the resources to onboard this role.
Deep technical capability is only one part of a wider web of expertise required to secure an organisation. Cybersecurity is equal parts analytically minded, strategic, generalist to a business’ objectives and users, and proactive. Despite calls to widen the cybersecurity skills market (recruitment programmes, for example), there’s just as much friction in retaining these sought-after specialists.
Earlier in 2023, CSI surveyed a wide scope of cybersecurity professionals to understand the state of the market. In conversation with the market, our specialists concluded that:
“Other security professionals are losing sleep, anxiously balancing between securing a business against today’s biggest threats and keeping it sustainable and risk-free long into the future. Polled by CSI earlier this year, we learned that 93% of cyber security decision makers are kept awake at night worrying about security issues.”
Critically, where retention is concerned, security professionals are suffering a kind of burnout. In 2023, CSI assembled an influential panel to talk to UK organisations about cyber security trends and insights. One of the most common talking-points amongst businesses was the role of scarce resources and what to do when cyber security expertise is missing from the inside. What’s more problematic, as cyber security requirements tighten, there’s greater urgency to protect your business with the right expertise.
The Aging Workforce
If ever a company found itself standing at a crossroads over questions about recruitment, it’s when they stumble into the riddle of what to do with aging skillsets and how to replace them?
It is a very common scenario: an organisation’s technology stack – how it gets maintained, its daily operation, and more – are reliant on certain skills being available around the clock. But as this key talent ages (soon to retire), how does your organisation plan to fill the gap left behind from technical skills that are challenging to recruit?
The challenge we often face, then, is in addressing not only where to look for skilled professionals but how to replace aging talent from within an organisation. In recent years, especially post-pandemic, many organisations rapidly transformed, investing in digital resources and technologies to enable seamless collaboration and communication, to improve customer experiences, or even to keep up with the pace of competitive change. The demand of IT skills has only intensified in the fallout of a many digital transformation initiatives.
One of the reasons for skills shortages, experts suggest, is the aging demographic within the IT sector. IT professionals eventually retire – and their expertise retires with them. Training programmes can, pragmatically, ensure skills are retained and circulated across the IT labour market, but that can feel like wishful thinking at the best of times. IBM i and IBM AIX expertise, for example, is a skillset hard to pin down as many of these specialist engineers have now retired. Despite powering many global organisations, IBM expertise can be scarce.
Seasoned professionals – the kinds of countless years of experience, insights and knowledge – are a critical asset in IT. Timing is often unfavourable when it comes to retiring skillset and, in 2024, this is no different. An organisation will need someone with an intricate understanding of their legacy systems and the right skills to seamlessly modernise and scale their IT infrastructures for the future.
What compounds change, and places more pressure to find skills, is the pace of technological innovation. Do you, for example, have the expertise to optimise cloud costs? How ready is your IT infrastructure for artificial intelligence? Organisations will now have to find new means of bridging the gap between the seasoned expertise of their aging workforces and the dynamic, often very technical, requirements of digital transformation initiatives.
As a result of finding the best balance between legacy technologies and new skills, the hiring landscape has become intensely competitive. As talent recruitment and retention becomes expensive and hard to pin down, agile technology partnerships through the likes of a Managed Services Provider (MSP) become more valuable than ever.
Align to an MSP
If skills are the lifeline of your IT operations, are they running short? In 2022, the global skill shortage reached an all-time high, where it was recorded that 70% of polled organisations experienced some difficulty in finding the right talent to keep up with the pace of change. Rest assured, IT skills shortages are a global challenge.
The new mindset behind recruitment is that onboarding in-demand skills is a short-term solution to a longer-term game. To remain competitive in the digital economy, organisations need to keep innovation within practical distance, adopting new technologies like storage containers, AI, and application modernisation. Without these, your digital transformation journey will feel frustratingly delayed.
So, how are forward-thinking organisations like Oxford Cancer Biomarkers dealing with the urgency around specialist IT skills?
They look to address skills shortages through outsourcing specific technology areas to a managed services provider (MSP) and use the likes of IT automation to relieve over-worked employees from the burden of mundane, repeatable tasks.
Working with CSI, we strive to make IT teams can work smarter, not harder. Not only does this give staff more time to focus on value-adding activities like improving the customer experience, but it simplifies the important task of maintaining compliance to standards.
We become an extension of our customers’ IT teams – we don’t replace them. We bring legacy and new skills into an organisation to ensure digitally transformative projects can help enterprises scale to new, profitable heights.
How CSI Can Help
As the technology partner of choice for many regulated organisations, CSI helps businesses innovate and scale with the market’s best tech. After 40 years in the market, CSI is a unique MSP with a deep technical bench, meaning we have skills to manage legacy platforms and scale with new technologies.
For a no-obligation talk with one of our specialists, get in touch today to hear from one of our specialists.
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