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Is the Tech Skills Gap Growing or Shrinking?

Written by Chris Murdock | March 30, 2020

The global information technology industry is on pace to be worth more than $5.2 trillion by the end of 2020. About a decade ago, the tech industry skyrocketed. This was fueled by the combination and leveraging of big data, mass automation, artificial intelligence, and of course, smartphones. The demand for employees trained in advanced and emerging tech was overwhelming. It was so great that a gap developed between available workers without advanced tech skills and open or new positions requiring in-demand tech skills. 


This situation proved to be a major issue for employers, one that many are still grappling with. To keep up with the demand for cutting edge technology, employers need skilled workers, which means they need to find a way to narrow the skills gap. 

What are #employers doing to narrow the #skillsgap and what does it all mean for #recruiters? Find out in @IQTalent’s latest article:Click to Tweet

Attempts at Narrowing the Skills Gap 

Employers quickly realized that bridging the gap is no small job, and the gap will likely never be eliminated entirely, but that doesn’t stop them from attempting to narrow it. Here are some methods being used by employers:


Reskill and Upskill Employees  

For most employers, hiring a slew of new employees isn’t ideal. Hiring and onboarding costs are high, and they don’t want to lose their loyal and hardworking employees. To stay competitive, they’ve opted to train employees in new skills while on the job. While reskilling sounds like an obvious solution, it can be costly, time-consuming, and some employees may not be interested in learning new skills.  


Identifying and Hiring from Overlooked Talent Pools 

Many employers battling the skills gap believe there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill positions. Consider the possibility that they aren’t looking in the right locations. Formerly incarcerated individuals often gain skills during their incarceration that can be extremely marketable to future employers. And, the talent pool is large. If the U.S. prison population were a city, it would be the fifth-largest city in the country. At that size, overlooking the potential talent is a disservice to an organization. 


Sadly the unemployment rate for veterans is almost twice the national rate. Servicemen and women often lack certain types of previous job experience. Recruiters should factor in veterans’ unique experiences and skills while keeping in mind that research shows veterans outperform other employees and stay at an organization longer than the median length of time


Partnering with Schools and Technical Colleges 

Educators need to know what specific skills employers seek so they can include most-needed skills in curriculum. Students also need to know what their career options are. Only 35% of jobs require a bachelor’s degree, but almost 70% of high school graduates attend college, making college a risky investment for many young people. When students and educators understand what skills are in high demand, they can make more informed decisions. 


Many employers are partnering with high schools and technical colleges to encourage STEM education and expose students to vocational career opportunities. Some of these partnerships include apprenticeship programs in which students are paid to learn a trade and even given academic credit. For students who cannot afford technical college, this is a pretty sweet deal. 

Is Progress Being Made? 

Recruiters and employers have been on the front lines of fighting to narrow the skills gap for years now, but are they moving the needle? There’s quite a bit of diversity of thought. 


Some research says the skills gap is shrinking. One study, which used data from Indeed job postings and resumes, added between 2014 and 2108, found that it's getting easier for tech firms to find workers with the in-demand tech skills they need. Another study, which used survey data from resume service Enhancv found there's no evidence a tech skills gap even exists anymore


But it might not be that simple. 46% of employers report having trouble filling jobs last year. The National Association of Colleges and Employers suggests the root issue is the lightning-fast speed of change in the tech industry. They suggest students are learning skills that won’t be in high demand by the time they get into the workforce and that employees are continually getting lapped by the demand of another new skill. 

DYK: 46% of employers report having trouble filling jobs last year. Find out what #recruiters can do to bridge the #skillsgap and source qualified #candidates in @IQTalent’s latest post: Click to Tweet

What Comes Next for Recruiting Teams? 

Regardless of the status of the skills gap, employers and recruiters can acknowledge difficulty in sourcing and hiring qualified talent. So, what are some next steps to overcome this barrier? 


  1. Challenge employers’ must-have job requirements. Is it absolutely necessary that candidates have a master’s or even a bachelor’s degree? Would relevant experience suffice? 
  2. Encourage employers to create a culture of upskilling. Employees who are constantly learning are less likely to be lapped by the need for new skills. Make on-job learning a priority at all levels of the organization by carving out time and budget for training courses and tools. 
  3. Work to establish a strong pipeline by investing in local young professionals. Recruiters and employers should be in communication with high school and colleges about what skills are needed as well as upcoming career opportunities. Volunteering to speak in a classroom, judging a competition ,or answering questions on a panel are good ways to maintain this connection.


Lastly, recruiters and employers should diversify their approach by seeking out new candidate pools. This can be difficult in niche industries. Consider augmenting your recruiting team by partnering with an outsourced recruiter. IQTalent Partners’ unique on-demand model makes outsourcing surprisingly affordable for organizations of all sizes and gives employers flexibility that other firms don’t offer. Learn about the IQTalent Partners difference and see how we saved this tech company $200,000 compared to a typical outsourced recruiter.