Solving the technical skills gap is closer than we realize.
GUEST COLUMN | by Pasha Maher
Could a solution for the technical skills gap be more attainable than most companies realize? Right now, that seems hard to imagine. After all, the number of jobs requiring unique skillsets in technology is increasing at a rate much faster than the supply of qualified candidates. Just this fall for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report noting a 15 percent increase in technology jobs over the next 10 years, resulting in over 680,000 new positions that will need to be filled. By the year 2040, the Department of Labor expects that as much as 70% of all jobs will involve coding and/or computer science.
‘By the year 2040, the Department of Labor expects that as much as 70% of all jobs will involve coding and/or computer science.’
Attracting Skilled Talent
Attracting skilled talent who can perform increasingly complex roles in DevOps, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and more, seems daunting. Companies are competing for a small slice of workers with just the right experience, and so unfortunately, many of these positions go unfilled. But what if this seemingly small slice of potential technology workers was much bigger than anyone realizes? What if the skills that are needed most in today’s workforce are not necessarily the ones being taught by the vast majority of higher education institutions?
In many cases, they aren’t. That’s not to say that higher education doesn’t play an important role in providing a base of knowledge and way of problem solving that can be utilized throughout one’s career. But it does mean that the specific content being taught does not always reflect the needs that many companies have.
Tailored to Challenges
Having worked with dozens of multinational corporations such as Bank of America, Lowe’s, Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola Consolidated, Ally Financial, US Bank, and others, we’ve seen how the skills most in demand are often tailored to the specific challenges faced by companies – in other words, not necessarily the ones taught uniformly in a classroom. Furthermore, companies such as these are looking for people who are here, who understand the job, and are ready to work.
McKinsey has found for example that emotional intelligence and soft skills are what companies really need to see in potential candidates the most – teaching someone how to code is the easy part. In a crisis, educational background, while helpful, is no longer the leading prerequisite.
And nor should it be.
The linear path that is so often touted as part of the American Dream is just not a reality for the vast majority of people. What’s worse, the students who graduate from this traditional path are not learning the skills they need to climb the workforce ladder.
There is an emerging gap between the education they are receiving and their employability once they graduate. How can we expect students to know what to focus on in the classroom when most have little to no meaningful work experience until after graduating.
More than Capable
Just because a traditional education wasn’t an option does not mean these workers should be locked out of the opportunities available to everyone else. People from communities across the country are starving for opportunities to have a career that is meaningful and can allow them to earn enough to cover their needs. Not tapping into this potential workforce and investing in skills that can then be utilized does not make economic sense.
With the technological challenges we face today, companies need to be thinking bigger. They need to go beyond the same recruiting tactics they have relied on for decades and explore the potential contributions of people who didn’t take the traditional career path.
That’s not to say that they should no longer consider college graduates either—far from it.
We need every one of the computer sciences graduates who are entering the workforce to find a job that suits their degree. But given the skyrocketing cost of education, the declining rates of post-graduation employment, and the sheer need for a workforce that is capable of handling the technical needs faced in our economy, this can no longer be the only place to look.
If you educate, train, and inspire people from all walks of life, many will prove that they are more than capable of doing the same jobs as those who received an Ivy League education.
And this is a future that is not very far off – technical training and guidance for people with nontraditional backgrounds is available today.
To solve the technical skills gap, companies should be investing in the people within their communities as well, giving them the training and understanding they need. These workers will not only fill the roles that are required but will bring with them a completely new and different perspective that can be even more powerful within their organization.
Pasha Maher is the co-founder and COO of Stiegler EdTech, a mission-driven organization dedicated to transforming technology education while providing people in underserved communities with a pathway to success. Connect on LinkedIn.