Editor's note: The following is a guest article from Kevin Kelly, director of cloud career training programs at Amazon Web Services.
When it comes to the technology skills gap, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the disparities between organizational IT demands and workforce capabilities.
As more industries adopt cloud services to accommodate their increased digital capabilities, many are finding that there are simply not enough seasoned individuals with the highly technical skill set required to meet the demand.
Nearly 80% of IT decision-makers say their teams lack the skills they need, according to a Global Knowledge survey of 9,500 IT professionals. The challenge is particularly acute when it comes to cloud computing, with 90% of organizations reporting shortages of cloud-related skills in survey by 451 Research.
So, how does an industry suddenly create a large number of highly qualified cloud professionals with 15-plus years of experience? It doesn't. Instead, businesses must rethink who they hire and how they train and retain them.
Rather than chasing and competing for a limited number of highly experienced professionals, employers should surround their most experienced employees with motivated, entry-level talent with strong foundational cloud skills.
Cloud providers, governments and training organizations are working hard to populate the global IT ecosystem with entry-level cloud talent. Tens of thousands of individuals have already received hands-on cloud training, and many are eager to start their cloud careers in towns and cities around the world.
Here are four reasons why you should hire them:
Entry-level talent is often 'cloud-native,' principled and ready to learn
Today's entry-level cloud talent won't come with a decade of on-the-job experience, but they also won't come with a decade's worth of legacy thinking either. Rather than needing to unlearn old habits and ways of working on now-defunct technologies, these individuals can help challenge outdated approaches and embrace change in the digital age.
Many individuals who are just starting their cloud careers are also digital natives.
This new generation grew up with mobile devices, they understand voice-enabled technologies, and they know how to work virtually. They think differently about data and devices, likely espousing modern and innovative notions about technology and what it can do. Just imagine what such energy and high standards could do for your teams of solutions architects and developers.
New talent advances the skill set of experienced employees
How can you get the best out of your most valuable employees? Give them a team to train, mentor and work with.
Building teams comprised of individuals with various levels of experience will help ensure that they are complimenting and learning from one another. Those new to the cloud will be able to grow their skills in a supportive environment, with mentorship from someone who has ample experience.
By surrounding your experienced cloud talent with skilled, entry-level talent, companies will also free them up to take on the more high-value aspects of their projects. Their team can do some of the building, and they can focus on more complex tasks, strategy and design.
Organizations may even find that giving tenured employees tasks more closely aligned to their abilities might help them stick around longer. In a 2020 survey by Deloitte, respondents who said their companies use their skills effectively were also more likely to say they plan to stay with their current employer.
In order to get the best out of entry-level and most experienced employees, companies will also need to make sure they are supporting development. Recent data from IT shows that both approval and encouragement of ongoing training is increasing.
When IT decision-makers were asked by Global Knowledge in 2020 how they will close the skills gap at their organization, 56% responded that they will train their existing staff, an increase of 17% from 2019. Additionally, when the company authorized formal training for their staff, 80% of managers approved it in 2020, while only 59% approved training in 2019.
Investing in entry-level talent will save time, money and resources
Skills gaps are more than just an inconvenience; the financial and business repercussions can be grave. The IDC anticipates that in 2020, 90% of all organizations will have adjusted project plans, delayed product/service releases, incurred costs or lost revenue because of lack of IT skills.
By hiring entry-level talent, businesses can bridge the IT skills gap, helping organizations achieve business objectives and meet demands on time. Research suggests that investing in employees can improve retention rates.
IT professionals who've completed additional training are 30% more likely to report being satisfied in their job than those without training and 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development, according to a LinkedIn survey of 4,000 professionals.
Diverse talent will be smarter and more stable
Having a mix of talent and experience across an organization can also help create stability. If a company has one or two highly experienced individuals, what happens when one of them leaves?
Businesses can help ensure business continuity and financial stability by building strong, supported and resilient teams —teams that don't depend on a small number of irreplaceable employees.
Hiring individuals with a range of skills, backgrounds and experience will also have a positive impact on business decision-making and innovation. Research shows that diverse teams are smarter and more innovative.
Turning scarcity into opportunity
The scarcity of highly experienced cloud talent is a major concern for many businesses. But this scarcity is also an invitation to hire, train and retain talent differently.
Companies large and small can tackle the current skills shortage by building and investing in diverse, resilient teams with a mix of experience levels. Rather than searching for hard-to-find — and difficult to keep — tenured individuals alone, companies should also invest in entry-level talent with strong foundational cloud skills.
Around the world, individuals are emerging from universities, training programs and internships with hands-on experience in the cloud and an eagerness to launch their careers. Some of them will even hold industry-recognized cloud certifications. And they are key to bridging the skills gap and helping businesses thrive.