Safe Harbor Statement: The information on IBM products is intended to outline IBM's general product direction and it should not be relied on in making a purchasing decision. The information on the new products is for informational purposes only and may not be incorporated into any contract. The information on IBM products is not a commitment, promise, or legal obligation to deliver any material, code, or functionality. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for IBM products remains at IBM's sole discretion.
Tony Pearson is a an active participant in local, regional, and industry-specific interests, and does not receive any special payments to mention them on this blog.
Tony Pearson receives part of the revenue proceeds from sales of books he has authored listed in the side panel.
Tony Pearson is not a medical doctor, and this blog does not reference any IBM product or service that is intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, prevention or monitoring of a disease or medical condition, unless otherwise specified on individual posts.
Facing the Storm: Global IT Skills Shortage
Well, 2017 is nearly wrapping up, and many bloggers are using this time to predict what will happen in the future.
The study surveyed 5,676 leaders from various industries, education, and government agencies responsible for workforce development and labor/workforce policy. This was a truly global survey, with respondents from North and South America, the Nordics, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia.
A gloomy picture for the future
The survey paints a gloomy picture for the future. The majority of industry executives struggle to keep their workforce skills current, in light of rapidly changing technological advancements.
Only 55 percent of the respondents felt the current education system, from grade school up to university, were adequate to ensure lifelong learning and skills development. Most blamed inadequate investment from private industry in addressing these issues.
Any problem can be solved if (a) everyone agrees what the problem is, and (b) everyone feels it is high enough priority to solve. The study found there was a disparity of what the problem is, what the priorities are, and who should solve it.
In the book Class Counts: Education, Inequality, and the Shrinking Middle Class, the author Allan Ornstein argues ".. the debate centers on whether the government should take a backseat or manage the economy, whether a free market should prevail or whether we should redefine or tinker with market forces..."
Which workplace skills are in short supply?
Can we at least agree on which workplace skills are in short supply?
Not surprisingly, Industry leaders ranked the top three skills required:
Technical core capabilities for Science, Technology Engineering and Math [STEM]
Basic computer and software/application skills
Fundamental core capabilities around reading, writing and arithmetic (often called [the three Rs])
These are all "hard skills", referring to the knowledge, skills and competencies to perform specific tasks. Nearly 75 percent of corporate training budgets are focused on hard skills.
Government leaders, on the other hand, especially those that are responsible for labor/workforce policy, ranked the top three skills:
Ability to communicate effectively in a business context
Willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change
Ability to work effectively in team environments
These would all be classified as "soft skills", referring to the people skills, social skills, communication and emotional intelligence to effectively navigate the environment and work well with others.
In fact, these government leaders felt that STEM, computer skills and "the three Rs" ranked the lowest requirements in their priority.
"Unless managers have forgotten everything they learned in Econ 101, they should recognize that one way to fill a vacancy is to offer qualified job seekers a compelling reason to take the job. Higher pay, better benefits, and more accommodating work hours are usually good reasons for job applicants to prefer one employment offer over another."
"... the long-hours pandemic is a symptom of the tech and design sectors' badge-of-honor-martyr-complex. ... part of the reason that women can't have it all is that American business has grown this time-macho culture, a relentless competition to work harder, stay later, pull more all-nighters, ... the classic 40-hour work week have trained us to measure our labor by the number of hours we log,... However, this mindset is dead wrong when applied to today's professionals. The value ... isn't the time they spend, but the value they create through their knowledge."
IT jobs require creativity and focus. In a feature article titled [Why you should work 4 hours a day, according to science], Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, looks at the work habits of highly accomplished creative people through history and finds that they all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus.
Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.
Encouraging more students to develop the skills early
While we all agree that employers should raise salaries, offer better benefits, and fix their morally-corrupt culture of working too many hours, that only addresses part of the problem, the demand half of the equation. We also need to get kids to learn the hard and soft skills needed at an early age.
Do students have what it takes to work in the IT industry? John Rampton lists the [15 Characteristics of a Good Programmer]. Most are soft skills, with my favorites being: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.
In his book Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It, Peter Cappelli advises corporations to take a more proactive role:
"... a huge part of the so-called skills gap actually springs from weak employer efforts to promote internal training for either current employees or future hires ... It makes no sense for the employers, as consumers of skills, to remain an arm's-length distance from the schools that produce those skills..."
The major stakeholders, from industry to education to government, should partner together. For example, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system will be the first in the United States to [require all students to take computer science] in high school, starting with the class graduating in 2020. Grants and training are being provided by IT industry giants like Google and Microsoft.
IBM is also doing its part with [a new education paradigm], called Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools [P-TECH]. Normal high school is typically four years (grades 9 to 12), but P-TECH is a system of innovative public schools spanning grades 9 to 14 that bring together the best elements of high school, college, and career. The additional two years (grades 13 and 14) of community college can help teach the soft and hard skills needed for particular jobs in IT.
After the six years, students graduate with a no-cost associates degree in applied science, engineering, computers and related disciplines, along with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their studies or step easily into well paying, high potential jobs in the IT arena for multiple industries.
The paradigm has grown from one school in 2011 to 60 schools by September 2016, with over 300 large and small companies affiliated with P-TECH schools serving thousands of students.
So the future may not be as gloomy as predicted. Problems can be addressed if everyone works together to solve them. In the mean time, I will be taking the rest of the year off for long-overdue vacation. Perhaps I will go hike mountains and take naps, as Alex suggests above.