Tech skills challenge accelerated by pace of digital transformation

tech skills

A new survey on tech skills by Equinix, Inc. has revealed that UK IT leaders have serious concerns about staff retention and recruitment.

According to the Equinix 2022 Global Tech Trends Survey, 67 per cent of IT decision-makers in the UK view a shortage of personnel with IT skills as one of the main threats to their business, compared to 62 per cent globally. Companies – including Equinix – are looking to widen the talent pool, bringing in more diverse candidates through alternative recruitment drives.

The 2,900 survey respondents acknowledged the speed at which the tech industry is transforming has left companies struggling to find people with the right skill sets to meet present and future challenges. In addition, 61 per cent of UK IT leaders acknowledged that the skills shortage has been exacerbated by the speed at which the tech industry is transforming.

Globally, the most common concerns identified by 44 per cent of respondents were candidates with the wrong skill sets applying for jobs, and retention of current talent. In the UK, the results were slightly higher, with 45 per cent of IT leaders highlighting applicants’ skill sets not matching vacancies, while 49 per cent felt retaining talent was an increasing challenge. In addition, half of UK respondents said shifting expectations of employees towards hybrid and flexible working models had added further pressure.   

Across the globe, the most in-demand tech employees are IT technicians (27 per cent), cloud computing specialists (26 per cent) and those with an AI/machine learning aptitude (26 per cent). Other skills shortages include data analysis (21 per cent), data protection (21 per cent), security software development (19 per cent) and security analysis (18 per cent). Globally, IT leaders anticipate the gaps in tech skills will remain similar in the future, with AI/machine learning becoming even more prominent. ​

In the UK, the survey identified the biggest tech skills gap today as being in AI/machine learning, with 28 per cent of hirers highlighting a shortage of expertise, followed by gaps in IT technician applicants (25 per cent) and cloud computing specialists (25 per cent).

Keri Gilder, CEO of Colt Technology Services, based in London, explained: “Finding the right skills is a real problem in the tech industry, especially on the software side. The reality is that with the softwarisation of services, all industries are seeking the same skills. One of the challenges here is a lack of awareness among young talent of the opportunities available within the tech sector. Connectivity providers do not appear in many use cases – even those at university level – despite all the work being done in areas such as subsea, satellite and fibre. We have to think collaboratively around talent, and work as an industry to bring in more of the diverse skills base waiting for an opportunity.”

In response to skills shortages, many global businesses are working hard to reskill people from other areas. Indeed, 62 per cent said they reskill workers from similar industries, while 34 per cent are trying to bolster their workforce with recruits from unrelated sectors. It is a similar story in the UK, with 57 per cent of businesses reskilling workers from the IT sector and related industries, while 39 per cent seek to reskill applicants from completely different industry sectors. With recent layoffs and furlough schemes prompting workers to start looking for opportunities to level up their skills or careers, tech companies that offer training and development opportunities could be better positioned to attract talent.

Meanwhile, businesses are also seeking to recruit through higher education and apprenticeship programs. IT leaders globally said their companies’ main ways of partnering with higher education institutions include offering student internships (42 per cent), running collaborative training programs with higher education institutions (41 per cent), taking part in college/university career fairs (37 per cent) and partnering on degree apprenticeship programs (34 per cent).

Brandi Galvin Morandi, chief legal and HR officer at Equinix, said: “The survey reveals unmatched skill sets are hampering talent acquisition across tech-focused teams globally. There is an overall lack of understanding about the specific skills needed for certain roles, and potential candidates need better guidance around training, preparation, and job opportunities.

“This challenge hands our industry the opportunity to recruit and develop talent in different ways, and this is something we’ve been working to get ahead of in the past few years. We believe companies should foster a progressive talent development roadmap for tech roles that caters for both inexperienced and trained candidates. Another opportunity is mentorship programs – helping potential candidates gain access to an established network for career guidance, while connecting companies with suitable candidates for a robust talent pool. We also encourage higher education and vocational training institutions to work with tech teams within companies to ensure their curriculum imparts the right skills to students and prepares them for their desired careers.”

Gary Aitkenhead, senior vice-president, EMEA IBX operations at Equinix, noted: “The skills gap is present across the entire tech industry, but is particularly acute in operations roles where the rapid pace of change means the workforce needs to be constantly upskilled and expanded. At Equinix, we run comprehensive training programs to ensure our current employees have the skills they need, but it is more difficult to find new recruits with the right skill sets. Ultimately, not enough people are aware of the career opportunities within the data centre industry. To help solve this problem, Equinix is trialling a number of initiatives in EMEA, including career transition programs such as the ‘I am Remarkable’ project in the UK that aims to help people from diverse backgrounds return to the workforce after taking a career gap.” 

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