Despite high unemployment, there remains strong demand for IT professionals. As the country looks to get millions of unemployed individuals back to work, reskilling displaced workers and training them for careers in IT is a solution many states and organizations are pursuing.
On the “Industry Deep Dive: Rapid Reskilling: Is Your IT Program Prepared to Train and Support Displaced Workers” session during the recent Jobs for the Future Horizons 2020 conference, two CompTIA executives shared recommendations and insights on the current landscape, what skills are in demand and the available resources to help fill the IT jobs pipeline.
James Stanger, Chief Technology Evangelist, explained that while many companies are being very cautious with spending, they do realize if they want to stay in business, they’ve got to offer the services customers expect. “One of the drivers we are seeing take place is smaller managed service providers who need to support other companies are hiring. We are also seeing larger tech companies – pure tech companies – hire AWS and Microsoft Azure expertise.”
According to Mark Plunkett, Senior Director, Training Operations & Business Development, there’s also a need for more people filling the top of the funnel. “As we look at individuals upskilling and taking some of these jobs, we need to fill the funnel because there were over a million IT occupation jobs added in Q1. In fact, prior to COVID-19, there was a massive shortage of people entering the tech industry.”
There are three key areas of skill demand – remote tech support, cloud computing and cybersecurity. Plunkett shared that on Cyberseek, there are currently 500,000 jobs posted with 307,822 open jobs within operating and maintaining with the rest for Cybersecurity engineer, cybersecurity analyst and similar jobs.
“We are seeing a major spike for remote tech support for fairly obviously reasons,” Stanger said. “And, we are seeing more device diversity than we saw before COVID. When the country went into work from home mode, many employees had company issued laptops, but a lot didn’t. So, they were basically working from home on their home computers, meaning there is a lot of device diversity. Working in the cloud, being able to migrate, not just everything to the cloud, but working in a hybrid environment is an important skill and a lot of security jobs are also changing and morphing and there’s continued need for support,” he added.
Both Plunkett and Stanger emphasized that new skills and competencies are essential for IT training programs and offered some resource recommendations:
- CompTIA’s IT Outlook 2020 – for understanding where to go and what is important in terms of essential IT skills in the workplace.
- CyberSeek.org – provides data about job supply demand including a heat map showing the number employed in cybersecurity jobs and the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs and the type of skills companies are looking for.
- CompTIA’s Cyberstates report – guide to national, state, and metropolitan area tech sector and tech workforce analytics.
- Burning Glass – context-specific, geographically aware site that delivers job market analytics on cybersecurity and IT jobs.
In today’s environment, it is critical for IT workers to have the proper foundation and high level of computer and information literacy. With technology changing rapidly even someone with many years of experience needs to stay relevant.
“It’s interesting to see the gaps that people have in their knowledge,” said Stanger. “They are very deep in certain areas, but not in others. And that holds companies back and holds people back in their careers. Technology is moving so fast you can’t afford to say I’m going to dive into this and I’m not going to worry about all this other stuff on the periphery. You’ve got to have a good foundation so that those things that are on the side that don’t seem relevant suddenly become relevant very quickly, tomorrow or maybe even the next hour. So, having that right foundation is important, not just to get people ramped up, but more importantly, to allow them to handle all the emerging technologies that are happening right now.”
CompTIA’s IT Fundamentals (ITF+) is one way the organization helps promote digital literacy. The primary goal of the program is help people think about how technology works. “There are consumers of IT who know how to use their mobile phone, but do they really know how it works? Do they understand how social media databases work? How the networking operates? ITF+ is one way to get started,” Stanger explained.
In expanding on CompTIA’s offerings, Plunkett shared, “we’ve developed an eight-week program where we teach an IT core skills program that incorporates ITF+ but also goes into presentation, math and reading skills and gives individuals the foundational knowledge to prepare them to go into A+ certification.”
Apprenticeships are a good way for people with various backgrounds and skills IT experience. CompTIA partners with Apprenti, as well as others, and are in discussions with many states on how to build a credible apprenticeship program including virtual, remote opportunities. “We work with states, companies and partners to set up the opportunities,” Stanger said. “While we liaise between these parties, the companies and the governments typically have to work and coordinate together.” CompTIA also provides training through its Custom Training program and through its certified training experts.
For Plunkett, its important training is well rounded and interactive. Labs and performance-based questions should be included to test the skills, not just theoretical knowledge. “We do need things quicker than just relying on the academic sector to build that talent pool. So, the more diverse, innovative offerings the better. There are a lot of very effective self-study and virtual programs as well as hybrid approaches. There are mentored learning approaches we’re offering and that partners are offering as well.”
In his closing words of advice, Stanger urged the attendees to do anything they can to expose students to the technology in a hands-on way by taking an explorative approach. “If you can make that experiential, you’ll be amazed at how quickly students will leapfrog in their knowledge and get to the level that the market is looking for.”
Plunkett encouraged everyone to have people perform tasks testing their skills, so they go through mirroring the workplace as much as possible. “We see that as the most effective way of delivering these skills to individuals. My advice is to think outside the box and be prepared to see what is working. See us at CompTIA as a resource. We are happy to share best practices we see. We really want to fill the pipeline to where it needs to be and support the entire ecosystem.”