Remedying a Workforce Skills Gap

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An ideal workforce skill set means having the right skills in the right place at the right time.



“That would be nirvana,” said Neill Hopkins, Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) vice president of skills development.



Obviously, this best-case scenario is an infrequent circumstance. But how does an organization know if it has a workforce skills gap significant enough to need remedying?



To determine this, it should look at whether its IT projects are meeting deadlines and being completed according to budget and plan. CompTIA has found 90 percent of IT projects are not completed on time.



“That’s a shocking amount, and the reason for that is the skills possessed by those actually leading those projects are such that they don’t know how to do that particular work,” Hopkins said. “So, to identify a skills gap, the question would be, ‘Are your projects being brought in on time?’ And if they’re not, you need to assess why not.”



Doing so will mean conducting a thorough needs assessment, something organizations can neglect when it comes to employee skills.



“Most organizations have a reasonable handle on what their internal needs are,” Hopkins said. “They’ve assessed that their businesses need certain types of IT equipment and resources and certain products and services around that, but oftentimes, they don’t assess what their employees need to know to be successful in the roles that they are deploying them into.”



Hopkins’ prescribed approach to addressing this deficiency is to draw up a diagnostic of an organization’s workforce that dictates what skills are needed and where, regardless of whether the staffing is there for each need. Doing so will facilitate remedying any gaps, he said.



“You must map out what the skill sets of your current employees are, map those to the roles and responsibilities that you have in the organization and then map out the career paths for those that are coming into the organization or that you want to come into the organization,” Hopkins said.



There are two means to bridging any skills gaps this process identifies. The first is to hire people with the right skills into areas where a need is identified, and the second is to initiate training programs for existing staff members.  In each case, certification programs play an essential role.



“You want to make sure you’ve got a competitive edge in today’s industries — it doesn’t matter which industry it is, everybody uses IT,” Hopkins said. “So, you’ve got to make sure that you have folks that are well-qualified for those positions. Certifications are an important part of validating whether an employee has the right skills in the right place. Those with certifications have a better response to incidents, issues and projects than those who do not.”



Certifications speak to an IT professional’s established skill set, and certification training programs are a useful tool in building IT skills.



So, in remedying workforce skills gaps through hiring and fostering continuous education through training programs, organizations should be able to rely on certifications to attain “nirvana” and get the right skills in the right place at the right time.

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