6 Considerations to help fill the digital skills gap


In the US, an estimated 60 million people are shut out of jobs because of lack of digital skills and nearly 20 percent of American adults do not use the Internet at home, work or school or by mobile device. In 2014, a study by Wanted Analytics found that demand for computer programmers with a background in data grew 337 percent, but that out of the 332,000 computer programmers in America, only 4 percent had the necessary skillsets.



This is obviously a problem that needs to be addressed.

The gap between skilled personnel and technical job opportunities continues to grow at a rapid pace. The theory historically was that a computer science degree was sufficient for at least an entry position in a technical role within most organizations. Today, having that same basic “computer science” knowledge is necessary for almost every role. The technical expectations from employers is much higher today for doing even basic IT work. Basic IT work, for example consists of browsing and finding information in a web or cloud based environment, uploading and sharing documents, setting attributes and permissions for files and artifacts and other technical activities.
The modern information worker (if we can still use that term) must be familiar with a wide spectrum of tools and technologies along with their specialized skillset. Sending email, updating spreadsheets, downloading and collaborating on documents traditionally was enough knowledge for most users. In the modern data filled landscape, we have cloud computing, “always with us” mobile devices and advanced data-mining tools along with collaborative, communication and process (workflow) driven shared environments.



At this pace the available skilled workers, and the demand for those workers will continue to widen.
Some organizations recognize this and invest a substantial amount in educating and training their workforce and the payback is certainly worth it. 

The software company SAP invests millions in training its workforce, for example.There is no magic formula, piece of software or methodology that will solve this growing problem, but there are some things organizational leadership can do to make sure they are not left behind in this ever-changing technical landscape. 


Here are 6 critical components to consider when mapping out your “learning organization” strategy:


1. Distribute.

This is distribution of training to as many users as possible. Get the training that users need into their hands as easily and accessible as possible. This can be accomplished through virtual training and on-demand delivery. This may be as simple as providing a repository of training material or setting up an internal academy designed specifically at distributing training to the enterprise. Office 365 video for example makes it easy to distribute video across the enterprise..


2. Role based. 

There is so much to learn and so little time, which requires the identification of roles and responsibilities of your users and designing training programs that map to those roles. The modern user should be concentrating on learning skills that enhance their existing skills and in alignment with their responsibilities. A business analyst may be more interested in advanced Visio skills, for example.


3. Measure.

Your training and knowledge transfer initiatives should also have a measurement component. In other words, is there a measureable improvement in the user’s performance after going through training. And if there isn’t, why? Using an LMS system to track and measure the performance of your users is critical to growth. Your LMS should make it easy for you to change and modify quizzes and labs accordingly.


4. Recruit and Champion.

This is recruiting "champions" of products and technologies internally and externally being used by your organization. Subject Matter Experts (SME's) or champions can be identified within the organization that exhibit an advanced knowledge and experience with tools and products and can assist fellow co-workers with questions and concerns. Having a clear process in place for routing questions to these SME's and champions is also important.


5. Promote and Endorse.

Promoting the "learning" culture must come from the top down so every member of the organization understands the importance of making this shift to a learning organization. This type of promotion gets people involved and excited and these are important first steps. With this support from leadership, it makes it easier to get buy-in and compliance from those not interested in change and "old-ways" of getting work done. The millennials, however will be expecting this type of learning culture.


6. Celebrate and Award. 

Organizations must celebrate and award achievements. This may include recognizing an advanced degree, technical certification or program achievement award. This could also include a physical goal such as an Ironman competition. The key is recognizing those who strive to advance their knowledge and help others along the way.

Any or all of these will help move you to seeing measurable results within your team and bottom line.

How do we collectively solve the STEM skills gap? (BP)

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