IT skills gaps are increasing globally. The answer to closing them? It's not more training, but better training that's hands on.
The IT skills crisis is expected to impact 90% of organizations worldwide by 2025, the consequences of which will cost $6.5 trillion in product delays, lower customer satisfaction, loss of competitiveness, missed revenue goals and more. More importantly, IT skills gaps are slowing down organizations’ digital and technical innovation, putting business growth and performance in jeopardy.
Gina Smith, Research Director, IT Skills for Digital Business at IDC, conducted in-depth research into the effects the IT skills shortage is having on organizations. Frank Gartland, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Skillable, discussed Gina’s findings and how organizations can identify and close skills gaps more effectively in a recent webinar. The top five takeaways from the in-depth discussion can be found below.
Key takeways from the webinar.
1. Corporate training needs to include more "learn by doing" and validation.
According to IDC, businesses are still struggling to fill key technical roles despite the pool of prospects being larger than in 2022. More than half of businesses report it’s been very difficult or extremely difficult to fill positions like data scientists, data management professionals, architects, IT operations professionals and more. Difficulties in filling these roles stem primarily from struggling to find high-quality talent with the right skills for specific roles.
Overcoming these obstacles starts with enhancing training strategies. During the webinar, Frank and Gina discussed the benefits traditional training approaches (PowerPoints, lectures, video series, etc.) can have during the training process. However, these methods leave too much guesswork regarding individuals’ skills. It’s difficult to gauge whether learners actually have a skill without hands-on practice in a real-world environment. These methods help learners understand how training concepts will be used in actual scenarios, increasing knowledge retention and job readiness.
2. Experiential learning is critical to closing skills gaps faster.
Experiential learning (also known as ‘learning while doing’) is not a new concept. The idea has been around for decades and shown to be a highly more effective learning method. Research from experts like Linda Pavian Roberts, Cassandra Berry, Ruth Clark and others have all found that experiential learning caters to a variety of learning needs which boosts knowledge retention and application.
For example, provisioning a real environment within a virtual lab enables learners to practice on-the-job skills in a safe, controlled environment. The data created and captured by the lab clearly highlight where learners are excelling and where they need more help. The insights effectively highlight where skills gaps are lurking in your organization, enabling you to take more proactive steps to close them.
3. Desirable difficulties drive knowledge transfer and retention.
Learners approach training concepts or courses with varying skill levels. Some might be new to the material while others have intermediate or advanced skills. Frank and Gina stressed the importance of enabling learners to build upon their existing skillset rather than forcing them to start at level one again.
Providing desirable difficulties during training enables learners to take control of their learning which increases knowledge transfer and retention. Additionally, personalized learning helps learners feel more confident in assembling and building upon their skills to get things done. This also helps with overall job preparedness.
4. AI is your co-pilot in building hands-on learning experiences.
One of the obstacles businesses have in creating hands-on learning experiences is building them in a timely manner. Many organizations simply don’t have the time or resources to devote to creating experiential learning. However, recent advances in AI can help organizations create powerful hands-on experiences that validate skills in a timely manner.
During the webinar, Gina likened AI to a tireless assistant that is constantly working to help create better, more effective hands-on experiences. Frank added that many virtual lab developers use AI as a co-pilot that “helps write better instructions with desirable difficulties where instructions are not so easy that it’s not helpful or too hard that adult learners get frustrated.” He continued by saying AI can be a helpful tool in that scenario by streamlining the creation of hands-on learning experiences, saving organizations valuable time without sacrificing learning opportunities.
5. Barriers to embracing experiential learning are not as difficult as you think.
Many organizations still operate under the assumption that implementing experiential learning is a timely, expensive process. Gina said: “Businesses don’t know how to assemble content or feel the cost is expensive.” She elaborated further by explaining how many organizations are reluctant to spend the time and money on technology that may or may not work and continue to operate on misconceptions.
Frank dispelled these misconceptions by showing how easy it is to include hands-on experiences via hands-on labs. “First there’s the building of lab,” Frank said. “But it’s less about building the lab and more about figuring out the role—what skills you want users trained on and how you can create a real environment to teach them those skills. From here, you can automate the lab so people can easily learn.”
He went on to describe how the investment of hands-on experiences is worth it from both a learner and business standpoint. “It imparts relevance and is made for adult learners. The environment is genuine and real and empowers individuals to grow their skills more quickly.”
Experiential learning: it works
The five takeaways we’ve covered here offer a glimpse into the critical discussion led by two industry experts. Both Gina and Frank stressed the importance of augmenting training strategies with experiential learning to close the IT skills gaps for good. The methodology takes the guesswork out of learning by providing learners with relevant, hands-on practice that increases knowledge transfer and retention. This ultimately results in more confident, job-ready individuals who are committed to driving business growth.
Watch the entire discussion for more information on why experiential learning is the answer to eliminating IT skills gaps.