Employers Struggling to Develop High-Tech Talent

By Bill Leonard Apr 23, 2015

Two recent studies reveal that employers across the globe are struggling with finding and developing the talent they need to build, maintain and secure their organizations’ technology infrastructure.

Research conducted and released by the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA) found that 83 percent of the respondents to a survey reported that their businesses face a shortage of software development specialists. Nearly 70 percent of the more than 750 respondents said their companies are attempting to address the talent shortage by offering more training and providing more internships to students in high-tech fields.

“Software engineers are critical to the functioning of nearly every organization and industry, so closing the talent gap is a high priority for TECNA’s regional technology council and the employers we serve throughout North America,” said Bob More, executive director of TECNA.

The TECNA survey examined specific skills gaps and educational requirements employers need and want from workers. The respondents indicated that software programmers, developers and engineers were particularly critical for mobile and corporate systems technology.

The findings of a study released by the (ISC)2 Foundation on April 16, 2015, aligned with the TECNA findings that employers face severe shortages in skilled high-tech workers, particularly in the information security field. The 2015 Global Information Security Workforce Study surveyed more than 14,000 human resource and information security professionals about the trends and opportunities in information systems security. Based on the survey results, analysts estimated that by 2019 there will be nearly 6 million open positions in the information security field. The talent shortage is increasing rapidly, researchers concluded, because training and development programs cannot keep up with the growing employer demand for trained and experienced information security specialists.

“The [skills and labor] gap is rolling on top of itself to the point where it’s growing exponentially,” said Julie Peeler, director of the (ISC)2 Foundation, a Clearwater, Fla.-based organization dedicated to promoting cybersecurity education and awareness programs.

According to the (ISC)2 survey data, 62 percent of the respondents reported lacking qualified staff to fill the open information security jobs at their organizations, which is up from 55 percent in 2013. In addition, 45 percent of the respondents said their organizations could not find qualified candidates to recruit and hire.

The TECNA and (ISC)2 studies both demonstrate the need for employers to “grow their own” talent and to develop training programs that specifically target the skills businesses need. However, businesses are struggling with how to offer the needed training and how to identify the best candidates for training. Researchers for the (ISC)2 study recommended that employers alleviate the talent shortage by hiring more Millennials (workers born after 1980) and then training them to perform the jobs.

According to data gathered by (ISC)2, an estimated 6 percent of the information security workforce is under 30 years old. While that statistic may appear surprising to some, researchers explained that the low participation rate for Millennials can be attributed to employers’ needs and the desire to hire more-experienced workers for critical information security jobs.

Hiring and training younger and less experienced workers to fill open positions could help to ease a talent shortage but would not completely solve the problem.

“In the final assessment, the strategies of investing in security technologies, personnel, and outsourcing will be insufficient to materially reduce the workforce shortage,” the (ISC)2 report stated. “An expansion of security awareness and accountability throughout the organization is required. Casual attempts at security awareness and education only go so far. A more impactful approach is to embed real security accountability into other departments, in particular IT; and for the IT and security departments to function more collaboratively.”

Bill Leonard is a senior writer at SHRM.


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