The IT Skills Gap: 3 Ways to Solve It

Current IT skills gap statistics in Canada confirm what all businesses are feeling. It’s time to double down on three ways to close the gap.

The IT skills gap isn’t a new challenge for Canadian businesses, but it has now become an urgent one. A recent survey by the Business Council of Canada (BCC) found that two-thirds of Canadian companies are forced to delay project timelines and 60% report lost revenues due to a lack of skilled workers. Leading the charge? IT talent.

Compared to companies worldwide, the Digital Skills Index by Salesforce Research shows that Canada is lagging behind global numbers for current workplace digital skills readiness by 10 percentage points (global readiness sits at 40% while Canada is at 30%). Even still, this gap is projected to widen. Five years from now, only 23% of businesses will have the right digital skills.

While these IT skills gap statistics are concerning, moreso is that the future doesn’t look any more promising. The Digital Skills Index also found that only 19% of businesses are equipped with resources to learn digital skills today, and that number drops to just 14% in five years. 

Why is it so critical to fill the skills gap NOW? First of all, hiring for IT talent is getting more competitive. According to a new CompTIA report, job postings for tech positions in Canada jumped 54,552 year-over-year, the equivalent of a 59% increase. 

Coupled with this, Canada’s Chief Economist is calling 2022 the Year of the Retiree. The loss of key skills and corporate knowledge when tech workers retire can be a double-punch to the organization. 

Creating an IT Skills Gap-focused Recruitment Strategy

Filling the current IT skills gap is a priority, as is keeping an eye on the future. It’s time to look at strategic and creative ways to fill this critical skills gap. 

1. Consider upskilling initiatives.

Upskilling is a very effective strategy when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. According to LinkedIn, employees offered skills training are 2.9 times more likely to be engaged in their work – and committed to their employer. 

The first step to your upskilling efforts is to establish a digital baseline. Knowing where you are and where you want to be can help you develop a stronger internal program. Second, involve your learning and development teams. Take advantage of the skills your L&D teams have in place, and expand their purview to include upskilling programs.

Your upskilling efforts don’t have to be inclusive of all of your skills gaps. Many companies have seen success in upskilling non-technical employees to meet a very specific skills gap. Let’s take the airline industry as an example. Baggage handlers are very familiar with RFID, and they know how the industry works. Can handlers be upskilled into a new career for future needs?

Upskilling does require an investment in terms of both resources and money. If you’re not ready for upskilling just yet, consider a co-op program

2. Take advantage of IT contractors.

We’ve already shared many of the benefits of utilizing IT contractors over full-time employees. They can fill your IT skills gaps quickly, can be brought in temporarily for short-term needs, and come without the extra strings of full-time employment.

Consultants are a viable solution to the IT skills gap from a sheer numbers perspective. Since the pandemic, skilled IT talent have chosen contracting over full-time employment for a variety of reasons.

First, contractors tend to earn a higher hourly rate than employees while being cost effective for businesses. They also are able to increase their skills development independently. Because contractors are hired to work on specific digital transformation projects, they rotate assignments frequently and keep their skills fresh.

From a work/life balance perspective, contracting allows for flexibility in terms of how many hours they work as well as the time of day they are available. This is made even more possible with the move to remote work.  You can live in Montreal and work in Calgary, or anywhere.

We’re often asked, where do contract workers fit in best? IT contractors can fill the largest skills gaps in tech, including:

  • Cloud Computing - Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, those with expertise in cloud computing have had their pick of positions. The more work is done remotely, the more we need cloud expertise.
  • Cyber Security - If more employees are working remotely, companies are at greater risk for cloud security risks. This is creating an increased need for cyber security talent.
  • Software Developers - In high demand everywhere, the type of work done by software developers aligns perfectly with the project-centric flexibility that comes with contingent work. 
  • Data and Analytics - Data scientists and machine learning experts are driven by disruptive technologies. Those with data and analytics expertise are often looking for timeline-based, temporary projects.

3. Tap into known talent.

Today’s hiring pace is difficult to sustain for even the most sophisticated talent acquisition team. While you are struggling to find talent to fill current needs created by the digital skills gap, it’s important to keep in mind your future needs as well. Tapping into known talent can help you create a strong talent pipeline regardless of job market conditions.

Consider people who know your business well, but whom you’ve not really considered. For example, could you leverage those who’ve retired, and offer to bring them back part-time or as a consultant? Perhaps your internship program may have had some promising talent. They could be good candidates for upskilling.

Think, too, about past candidates. Was there someone who “almost” made it to the finish line? Your second choice may be an optimal addition now, especially if they’re brought on as a consultant.  

With no end in sight for the current IT skills gap, it is time to take a serious look at your recruitment and retention strategies. Establishing upskilling programs, utilizing IT contractors, and taking advantage of known talent can help alleviate the pressures caused by the tech skills gap. 

As you’re designing new ways to fill that tech talent gap, connect with us to learn how we can connect with our deep bench of talented IT consultants.

2023 Canadian IT Hiring Trends & Salary Guide

In a candidate-driven market, offering competitive rates is critical to getting your foot in the door with top talent. Our 2023 Canadian IT Hiring Trends & Salary Guide gives you not only the rate data but the expert insights and market trends you need to successfully staff your IT teams.

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