Uproar over upskilling

Skills
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Companies are starting to weigh up the benefits of buying in expertise versus upskilling staff, says Billy MacInnes

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13 September 2019 | 0

There’s a general belief skills shortages are a good thing for the channel, understandably, because it means partners are likely to be called upon to plug the gaps for their customers. Of course, that’s dependent on partners having the skills to cover for their customers and it can be an issue if they are also struggling to recruit people at a time of shortages but, in the main, it’s a good thing.

Not so much for customers, perhaps, although there is something to be said for the ability to bring someone else in to do all the difficult stuff without having to employ your own staff to do it. Particularly when they may need to be training regularly to keep their skills up to date. Who has the time and the resources for that?

According to MicroScope, the Business Barometer from the Open University (OU) in the UK found that a third of businesses did not have the expertise to handle new technologies properly. Furthermore, a number of respondents felt that senior managers “did not have the digital proficiency to adapt and adopt the latest technologies” but new entrants, graduates and apprentices did.

Steve Hill, external engagement director at the OU, argued that with a shrinking talent pool, companies needed to “invest in developing their workforce”. People have been saying that for a long time but, to be honest, there’s only so much developing you can do.

As Joseph Scott, marketing manager at TheKnowledgeAcademy.com told MicroScope: “The consistent evolution of existing technology and the emergence of new technology has made it difficult for employees to stay in line with the technological changes taking place around them. In turn, this has led to a lot of employees not having the required knowledge and skills to implement certain digital practices which can really drive a business forward.”

And even if a business were to spend more time and money investing in its workforce, there would be no guarantee that some of those workers would not move to a different employer.

Which is why getting the skills in from an external partner can prove attractive because the onus is on the provider to ensure it has staff that are up to date and ‘skilled up’ to provide the required technical expertise. And to do it whenever and wherever it’s needed, consistently, over a period of time. If someone leaves the partner organisation, it’s the responsibility of the partner to have a replacement.

Of course, in an ideal world, businesses wouldn’t be struggling because technology had made it difficult for employees to keep pace with the technological changes taking place around them. In an ideal world, changes in the technology would not affect the way people used it. It might dramatically improve results by using the technology, but the capability for deploying and using it would not require additional skills and expertise from the user. And that process would not be repeated relentlessly and incessantly.

In an ideal world, the focus would be on reducing the skills required for the technology to be deployable, usable and supportable rather than on forcing businesses that implement the technology to continuously upgrade their skills to get the best results.

That type of approach would make life easier for everyone involved in IT – apart from the people creating the technology. Even then, you could argue, that by forcing software developers and hardware companies to devote more time to making their products less reliant on skills after the fact to get the best out of them, you would end up with a much more efficient IT industry.

But that’s a pipe dream. To quote a much hated phrase: ‘We are where we are’. And we don’t have the skills to get out of here any time soon.

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