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Addressing the technology skills gap
A skills gap can be defined as a significant gap between an organization’s skills needs and the current capabilities of its workforce. According to a recent survey by the IT trade association CompTIA, almost 90 percent of Canadian business executives say they have an IT skills gap at their company. This isn’t a problem that’s only affecting Canada, either. A recent study funded by Microsoft® shows there are 120,000 new computer science jobs created south of the border each year. However, the U.S. produces only 49,000 computer science degrees annually. This lack of qualified candidates in North America results in fierce competition among companies for qualified employees and the need to outsource jobs to foreign workers in order to grow and remain competitive.What is the reason for this skills gap in Canada and the U.S.? Many point to a lack of education in core curriculum subjects such as science and math. Gary Beach, CIO.com and CIO magazine publisher emeritus, says this gap threatens our future economic stability, workforce employability and national security. If your company is looking to fill any technology positions in the near future, you may want to keep reading for some strategies on finding and keeping the talent your organization needs to stay ahead.

Closing the gap
There are several things your company can explore to address the technology skills gap. Here are a few that may work for your company:

  • Perks and benefits: Money is a big one when it comes to attracting top talent. But, for those companies that can’t afford hefty signing bonuses, referral bonuses or other monetary incentives, perks and benefits can go a long way in drawing and retaining quality employees. Take your work environment, for instance. Gone are the days of cubicles and stuffy offices; today’s employee prefers a comfortable, home-like workspace—and one that’s fun, too. A playroom stocked with toys and games can be a great place for IT professionals to break away from the computer and unwind. Convey your fun culture right off the bat and consider gifting new team members with a Zing Ring Flyer or beach ball. Don’t forget the value of a fully stocked food pantry and fridge—give new employees a head start on feeling right at home with their very own personalized chalkboard coffee mug.
  • Train to retain: If you can’t hire the perfect employee, consider growing them. Training existing employees, or hiring new ones who are partially qualified and then training them to fill internal gaps, can be an effective approach. And hiring based on attitude and aptitude to learn is a great strategy as well. It may also be beneficial to recruit future employees through internships or co-op programs. Get started by developing strong relationships with your local colleges and high schools. Discuss some of the opportunities and/or problems you are facing with the career centre staff—they may be able to match you with an intern who can help. Use small tokens of appreciation, such as a popcorn tin or box of cookies, to stay popular with the schools you’re working with.
  • Partner up: IT needs to work closely with Human Resources to provide a good understanding of the exact skills and positions that need filling, both now and in the future. Define together how many employees will be needed, what skills are required and when you’ll be looking. Then, and only then should you start to recruit. One way to do this is by networking for referrals. Tell employees, clients, business associates and friends exactly what you’re looking for. Be sure to show gratitude to anyone who provides you with a successful referral. Gifts such as a Cordless Wine Opener or deluxe barbeque set accompanied by a handwritten thank-you note make nice choices.

Seeking the right talent now can help you narrow the achievement gap in the future. For more information on this topic, please check out our Blue Papers®.

Beach, Gary. “Is the Technology Skills Gap Fact or Fiction?CIO. N.p., 05 Sept. 2013. Web. Retrieved 04 Dec. 2013.

IT skills gap hurts productivity, Canadian executives say.” CBC News. N.p., 11 Nov. 2013. Web. Retrieved 20 Dec. 2013.

Technology Skills Gap.4imprint.com. N.p., 24 Jan. 2014. Web. Retrieved 24 Jan. 2014.

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