How Online Training Can Help Companies Bridge the IT Skills Gap

Online training is an ideal format for delivering just-in-time training and performance support.

The term,"skills gap,"has become supercharged in recent weeks as employers in all sectors report being unable to find qualified workers to fill open positions. Meanwhile, some argue that the skills gap is just a myth and that the reason so many jobs are sitting open is that employers aren't willing to pay the salary premium that normally goes along with in demand skills.

Regardless of why employers are having difficulty filling jobs, the fact remains that they are: In manufacturing, in technology, even in areas that prioritize soft skills, the divide between the skills employers are looking for and the skills candidates have is substantial. And, especially in IT and technology, it is expected to get bigger.

This infographic from technical staffing firm Smart Source Inc. sums up the growing problem that the skills gap is causing in IT. Here are the highlights:

  • U.S. companies are facing massive technology skills gaps, with 70 percent reporting gaps in mobile, 70 percent in cloud computing, 68 percent in social business, and 64 percent in business analytics skills.
  • Between now and 2020, employment in the computer and IT sector is expected to increase by 22 percent, with as many as 1.9 million new jobs available in the United States.
  • By 2020, a lack of qualified workers is expected to result in 2.5 million IT jobs going unfilled. How can companies prepare for the future so they do not find themselves with too many jobs sitting vacant and a resulting loss of revenue? The only answer to this question is training.

According to Peter Cappelli of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, decreases in the amount of training companies provide is, indeed, part of the reason industries as a whole are facing skills gaps today. In 1979, new workers were trained for an average of 2.5 weeks per year. By 1995, that number had dropped to less than 11 hours per year, with the most common type of training being in workplace safety. Today, only 21 percent of U.S. employees report getting any formal training at all in the last five years.

It's clear that training is now more essential than ever, and for companies looking to boost their organization's IT skills, online training offers the fastest, most efficient, and least expensive way to deliver that training. Here are four reasons online training is the best way for companies to bridge the IT skills gap:

  • Online training is faster and more efficient than instructor led training. When training employees on new skills, the goal is for them to learn those skills quickly and then be able to apply those skills immediately on the job. E-learning has been shown to reduce training time by up to 60 percent, boost information retention by up to 60 percent, and increase productivity by up to 50 percent. In large companies, with learner populations that are geographically diverse, online training can provide the additional benefit of reaching all employees at the same time, as opposed to instructor led training, which usually must be done serially, leading to skills imbalances across organizations.
  • Online training allows companies to more easily adapt to change. One of the main factors contributing to the skills gaps, particularly in IT and other tech fields, is the current rapid pace of change. The industry landscape simply is changing too quickly for companies to rely on colleges and other formal educational programs to teach the skills they need. Online training can help companies keep current by providing a way for new information to be quickly disseminated to all employees, something that is nearly impossible in organizations that rely on instructor led training. Close to three quarters of companies report that eLearning authoring tools help them keep up to date, which, in turn, helps them stay competitive.
  • Online training is an ideal format for delivering just-in-time training and performance support. As industry landscapes change and knowledge stores grow, the philosophy behind training is shifting from one of just-in-case to just-in-time. Many training and development departments are focusing more on performance support in the form of video tutorials, checklists, and other resources that employees use in the course of their regular jobs. Online training courses provide frameworks for storing these resources so learners can access and use them as needed.
  • Many IT and technology training courses are already available, some for free. The recent growth of online education in general has brought with it a proliferation of online courses on tech topics, which is hardly surprising as computer and programming skills are natural fits for online learning. As a result, many online course marketplaces already offer tech courses that companies can use to train their employees. Most of these courses are priced significantly below the cost of a traditional instructor-led training course, and some are even free.

The IT skills gap is big, and unless companies start providing increased training, it is only going to get bigger. Online training provides a way for organizations to ensure that their employees have the skills they need, now and into the future.

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