Application, tailoring and feedback: 3 ways to solve the IT skills crisis

Tired of hearing that the solution to closing gaps is the ever-vague “continuous skilling”?

We are too. Keep reading.

You’re here because everywhere you look, you see and hear people talking about the skills problem as if there’s only one talk track. It’s time to move past the generic “why continuous skilling is important” and “building cultures of learning is strategic” to “this is how you build the relevant skills and create experiences that validate people can do their jobs.”

That’s what attendees were looking for in a recent webinar about “Closing the IT skill gap with experiential learning and virtual labs,” led by Chief Product & Technology Officer, Frank Gartland, of Skillable.

Frank started his session with new 2024 IDC data points covering the consequences of the IT skills shortage, which is great context for building business cases, but the real value is in talking about how hands-on experiences can help IT and learning leaders build teams with job ready skills at scale while also capturing high-fidelity skill data.

Here are five takeaways from his session.

“To build up skills internally, top companies place emphasis on building experience rather than simply providing certifications. Effective reskilling is based on a clear understanding of what existing skills will best translate into new skills."
McKinsey & Company
Tech talent tectonics: Ten new realities for finding, keeping, and developing talent

1. Rewrite the playbook for effective training because traditional learning is restricting your organization’s success.

If a problem is getting worse, your existing solution for that problem isn’t effective, especially if it starts impacting more of your customers negatively. Data from IDC’s 2024 North American IT Skills Survey reports the impacts of IT skills gaps:

  • 62% report impacts to achieving revenue growth objectives
  • 59% report declines in customer satisfaction

 

Other data points include 63% of leaders saying a lack of IT skills delayed their digital transformation (DX) journey and 60% are dealing with slower hardware/software deployments.

To validate what organizations need in the modern era training playbook, Skillable surveyed IT professionals about what makes training most effective. They reported that it’s training that’s relevant, aligned to real work tasks and provides personalized skill feedback.

how-to-close-the-it-skills-gap-with-hands-on-learning-rewrite-the-training-playbook

Traditional learning and development isn't meeting people's needs.

So, why are organizations still using decades-old learning and development to tackle digital skills underpinned by a rapidly changing technology landscape?

One of the reasons is that traditional hands-on lab experiences have been difficult for organizations to manage.

2. Many traditional lab programs are designed for completion, not “doing.”

This is a prime opportunity for learning and IT leaders looking to have a tangible impact on the business. Why? Because today’s modern virtual labs are more accessible, scalable and cost effective than ever before. You can make it easier for training to be relevant to a person’s role and how it influences tech management, release cycles, technology adoption and more.

how-to-close-the-it-skills-gap-with-hands-on-learning-challenges-with-traditional-virtual-labs

Modern virtual labs don't have the same challenges as traditional labs.

Learn about the hands-on learning ecosystem.

At the 11:54 mark, Frank walks you through the types of hands-on learning environments.

3. Build knowledge and then invest in building application mastery and on-the-job confidence.

To truly address skill shortages hindering the pursuit of your business initiatives, learning investments need to translate into real-world application. Generic training content develops theoretical knowledge but can’t cover the last mile of learning (i.e., how to apply said knowledge in your unique environment and tech stack).

This leads to a confidence challenge that can emerge in the learning cycle between a person being “consciously incompetent” (they are aware of the skill but haven’t proven proficiency) and “consciously competent” (they can correctly apply the skill with little effort). Overcome this challenge by putting people in environments where they can practice applying what they’ve learned as if they’re on the job.

Today’s skills require learning to move beyond knowledge acquisition.


Knowledge acquisition vs. "proof of work" job readiness

Want better skill data and insights?

Starting at 26:30, Frank talks about how data is being used to support hands-on learning.

4. Hands-on fills the learning and job readiness gap.

People want more hands-on experiences that enable them to practice their theoretical learning in scenarios that mimic their real-world tasks. Organizations want job-ready people who can quickly (and correctly) apply what they learn.

Experience-based learning bridges the gap between connecting learning to work by having people actually perform tasks and situations they’ll encounter within their role.

how-to-close-the-it-skills-gap-with-hands-on-learning-skill-development-lifecycle

Completing the sequence with an “Assess, Practice and Validate” cycle builds confidence (between both learners and managers) that someone is able to perform on the job while also producing high-fidelity skill data.

Customer example.

Quest Software jumped into action when they needed to reskill and certify over 1,000 new partners in its software, at a global scale, and at the speed of business. Their new approach to skill development involving hands-on labs and skill validation at key points in the learning journey achieved exactly that.

5. A critical part of the skills-based organization movement.

For those looking to become skills-based organizations, hands-on labs provide a vital data point that can validate and increase confidence in the accuracy and timeliness of your skill data. When someone completes specific activities within the lab, they will generate highly relevant skill data that can be fed back into your skills framework — be it within a learning or HR system or a data lake.

Confident woman with skill validation

Everyone wins by adding experiences that demonstrate skill.

To dive deeper into the takeaways, hear more customer examples and see how you can leverage hands-on learning for employees, customers and partners, watch Frank’s on-demand session now.

Ready to make your life easier?

The most common reaction when somebody sees a Skillable demo is “I didn’t know you can do that!”

Let’s make it happen for you and your team.