Closing the digital skills gap

The technology sector is facing a skills shortage. To fill the gap, it must invest in training and improve gender diversity at every level of the industry

  • By Tara O’Sullivan, Chief Marketing Officer at Skillsoft and SumTotal | Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

Businesses could plug skills gaps in their tech departments by retraining existing staff and working to make the tech sector more welcoming of women

Businesses are in the midst of a technology skills drought. As more companies embrace new technology and undertake a digital transformation, demand for capable, skilled IT personnel is soaring, yet supply remains low. For companies to remain competitive, they must find a way to fill this skills gap.

One means of closing the digital skills gap is to focus on building diversity within the tech sector. Only 15 percent of those working in STEM roles in the UK are women, according to research by PwC. Women represent an untapped resource of technology talent.

Although the gender imbalance – and resulting skills gap – within technology cannot be changed overnight, there are a few critical steps business leaders can take to start making a difference. These changes will help to future-proof the business in the long run.

Train the workforce
Although organisations should always keep an eye out for new talent, they should not underestimate the employees they already have. With an awareness of the skills gap, organisations should train employees so they are able to take on STEM roles.

While training programmes must be offered to all employees, business leaders should make a particular effort to encourage participation from their female employees who may feel excluded from a career in technology.

Executives must work with HR to ensure that the recruitment process focuses on diversity and that employees are given equal opportunities

Once participation has been established, decision-makers can identify the mode of training they will provide. For ongoing training of this intensity, online and on-demand learning tends to be the best way forward. In the digital world, modern workers can be short on time, distracted and often mobile.

They need learning and development tools that meet the demands of the modern workplace, as well as the instant, curated content delivery expectations set by social media and entertainment platforms like Netflix. Forward-thinking organisations are turning to intelligent e-learning solutions that provide employees with engaging, multimodal content and tailored learning paths.

This approach can meet each individual’s learning requirements and encourages people to fit learning into their working day where they can. Employees can decide when they learn, where they learn and how they learn.

Boardroom level executives have a huge role to play in driving cultural change and that is exactly what is needed to increase diversity within technology. Executives must work with HR to ensure the recruitment process focuses on diversity and employees are given equal opportunities. Organisations that create a culture of diversity and inclusion and rally behind female talent will see the skills gap narrow faster than those that do not.

Filling the gaps
A recent study by Emolument found that within the tech sector women earn up to 28 percent less than men. The study also found that women consistently earn less than men even if they have the same job role. Statistics like this can be off-putting for women entering the industry. Why would they want to pursue a career technology if the opportunities and rewards are not equal to their male counterparts?

Organisations have an important role to play in ensuring women in technology are treated fairly. By taking part in gender pay gap reporting and being transparent about the efforts they are making to close the pay gap, organisations are more likely to create a diverse tech talent pipeline.

The technology skills gap will take time to close, but organisations can make headway in plugging their internal skills gap by using the talent they already have, particularly encouraging their female workforce to consider technology roles and ensuring they will be treated equally if they do.