C-Suite: How to get ahead of the IT skill shortage crisis

When discussing the future, IT pros and cybersecurity researchers are grim about one topic: The skills shortage.

Hiring was one of the focuses for InteropITX conference this year, held at the MGM in Las Vegas, with several panels looking to tackle the issue of IT’s skills shortage. The one we attended was “Surviving the Skills Shortage,” and it was the second well-attended panel we sat in on during InteropITX.

While we were there, we learned that the skills shortage has many professionals concerned for good reason.

Just three short years

Joint research conducted by Frost & Sullivan and (ISC)2, a business consulting firm and an information security non-profit respectively, found that globally there will be 1.5 million unfilled IT and cybersecurity positions by 2020.

The education world has already begun shifting to teach up-and-coming professionals the skills they need, but it’ll take years for those students to hit the job market.

C-Suite panelists

So that doesn’t help companies who need their IT positions filled now, and some professionals speculate that waiting for those degree-holders may not be the solution either.

At InteropITX, a panel consisting of Rob Duhart, the big data analytics and security manager at Ford Motor Co., Sean Cordero senior executive director for the office of the CISO at Optiv, and John Pironti the president at IP Architects, tried to tackle the issue with each executive sharing his own take.

The panel discussed how 74% of your peers don’t have the right people on staff to properly protect their companies’ and users’ data.

How big is this problem, really?

And while Pironti, whose company performs risk assessments, wondered if the problem is as big as it’s made out to be, a large portion of IT pros don’t feel confident about their security.

After all, the world of technology moves quickly and it feels like a never-ending race to stay ahead of hackers.

Cybercrime is now a $445 billion business, the panel discussed, and criminals are pulling from a diverse field of talent.

So why isn’t IT pulling from a wider audience too?

4 real-world solutions

That’s what Ford Motor Co. is doing by using what the industry is calling “new collar” staffers, those who may not hold all the requirements HR is checking for.

That’s not the only tactic, however.

Here’s the advice each panelist offered, pulling from their direct experience.

  • Know what you’re looking for. When it comes right down to it, do you need the unicorn who has all the right certifications, a four-year degree and that can-do attitude? Or do you really just need someone who’s eager to get the job done?
  • Expand IT’s outreach in the community. Sponsor an IT or robotics event for your the local middle and high schools. This is a long-game approach, but it helps get you into the ground floor of up-and-coming talent. You may even attract talent who see your events and want to be a part of it.
  • Focus on learning. It may not be all about hiring the latest and greatest talent. Your department might want to improve the talent you have by attending conferences or by enrolling in security training courses. The IT world is dynamic and in constant growth. Have an internal skills program that reflects this.
  • Improve the support network for your team. A large part of your battle in the skills shortage war is not losing the talent you do net. You can increase current staff retention by using mentorships, internships and shadowing programs. It lets staff know there’s mobility in the company and improves their soft skills.

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