Looking within will close the skills gap

The digital skills gap is getting wider and wider, but there is not enough available talent to fill it. To survive and thrive, organisations must urgently embrace internal digital upskilling

The emerging technologies helping companies to achieve digital transformation have radically disrupted workforce requirements. McKinsey predicts 800 million jobs will be eliminated by 2030 due to automation, which means nearly one in every four jobs on the planet will vanish. At the same time, digital transformation is creating hundreds of millions of new jobs for those with the right technical skills.

The truth is the skills of the past are dying and there are nowhere near enough skilled people in the world to fill the new jobs being created. And this paradox is colliding with a worrying lack of infrastructure to bridge the gap. According to research by Udacity, a global lifelong-learning platform for career advancement, 83 per cent of the Global 2000 report having a major skills gap and 70 per cent of those companies say the skills gap is preventing innovation.

Gartner saw in excess of 100 per cent growth in artificial intelligence (AI), data science and analytics job postings in the five years to 2020. The World Economic Forum predicts the most in-demand digital transformation jobs will grow 50 per cent a year over the coming years. These new jobs fall predominantly into the areas of data (machine learning, data science, analytics and big data), cloud computing, robotic process automation and cybersecurity.

“The digital skills gap is extremely costly for businesses, threatening their very survival,” says Gabe Dalporto, chief executive of Udacity. “Every industry is experiencing significant disruption. We work with most of the largest global automotive companies and they are shell shocked right now because of Tesla. For years, they believed they were in the hardware business; it turns out that modern car companies are really in the software business and they simply don’t have the skills to deal with that transformation.

Enterprises and individuals are going to have to take a much more proactive role in continuously evolving their skillsets

“If companies don’t take aggressive action, it will be terminal for them. From a national economic perspective, countries like China are investing heavily in emerging technologies, crafting a future economy and ensuring they have the right skills. Western economies are taking a more passive view and risk being disrupted and outmanoeuvred in the global economy.”

Organisations need significant numbers of highly skilled tech employees, but they can’t hire their way out of the problem because the talent doesn’t exist and universities produce only a small number of these highly technical graduates every year. Recruiting is an unsustainable solution; it’s not even a good stopgap measure because the demand for these skills is so high.

The far more effective option is to invest in internal upskilling. Udacity offers Nanodegree programmes within seven schools: AI, autonomous systems, business, cloud computing, cybersecurity, data science, and programming and development.

When Shell needed to deploy AI in 70 countries, Udacity worked with them to create a citizen data scientist career-scaling programme to upskill engineers and build its AI skills at scale. One of hundreds of AI projects saw data scientists applying these new skills to streaming sensor data from rigs and predicting maintenance models, so they could get replacement parts into the field to prevent outages and save millions per incident.

“Udacity’s learning platform offers consumers and enterprises the fastest, most effective way to get job-ready skills,” says Dalporto. “The single most important lesson is tying upskilling to business-critical transformation initiatives. If you just make an upskilling catalogue available to your employees, as an HR benefit, you’re going to fail. You need to understand what you’re trying to achieve, what are the skills gaps, and then work with a vendor that can help you create learning paths for internal candidates who can fill the gaps and, importantly, measure against business outcomes.

“The days of a one-and-done bachelor’s degree are gone. Enterprises and individuals are going to have to take a much more proactive role in continuously evolving their skillsets.”

For more information please visit udacity.com/enterprise

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