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The IT Skills Gap Is Only Getting Wider in 2024

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    As technologies become increasingly central to our daily operations, there is more demand than ever to recruit the best skills. Technology, for many, describes a set of skills, a means of outcompeting the market, an investment, and so much more.

    Forecasting what’s to come in 2024, the likes of artificial intelligence (AI), containerized storage, cyber security tooling, and more are expected to define the major trends in the IT market. But without the right talent at your fingertips, how will businesses level up innovation and compete with the changing business landscape?

    More importantly, what happens when the IT skills shortage widens?

    Why Talent Matters (When We Talk Tech)

    With four decades dedicated to supporting regulated workloads, Tectrade recognizes the evolving landscape where highly skilled IT technicians have become as valuable as the technology they oversee. After the global pandemic rapidly disrupted how modern businesses operate from day-to-day, following digital transformation (DX) projects, technology now firmly stands at the core of how we work.

    From a commercial perspective, artificial intelligence marks a pivotal moment in the US and beyond, capturing the attention of nearly every boardroom as executives chart their course for the years ahead. The AI narrative extends beyond mere mindshare; it underscores the pressing need to secure the right talent that can propel businesses into modernization through emerging technologies in meaningful ways.

    As recently as September 2023, Forbes updated its IT Skills Gap Report , highlighting a concerning trend. While technologies retire and renew, the essential skillsets often remain scarce and, unfortunately, elusive. When a global manufacturing firm struggles to attract the necessary expertise, it sets off a damaging cause-and-effect cycle, delaying innovation. Forbes’ report, based on surveys of businesses, concludes that the urgency of sourcing IT skills from our existing workforce has never been greater, yet these skills are increasingly challenging to find, attract, or retain.

    Did you know… In some corners of the world, IBM i – a platform renowned for its reliability – is one of the main areas impacted by a skills shortage. Organizations relying on IBM i to run business-critical applications face a growing challenge as the demand for skilled technicians has surpassed the available talent pool.

    The intricacies of managing and optimizing IBM i environments require specialized skills, including a nuanced understanding of the platform’s unique architecture, its security features, and more. As businesses continue to leverage the capabilities of IBM i for critical operations, the scarcity of qualified IBM i experts poses a significant challenge. Bridging the skills gap in IBM i is becoming increasingly crucial for companies seeking to maximize the potential of their IT infrastructure and ensure their ‘crown jewel’ workloads are always available.

    The IT Skills Market: An Overview

    In the current landscape, the shortage of IT skills is causing a headache for enterprises where technologies are in-demand. But the IT skills shortage captures something much larger than just dwindling skill share in the office: it reflects the growing demand for new technologies and an anxiety about who will operate them. IT plays a critical role where organizations want to onboard, modernize, scale, secure and innovate through new layers of hardware and software. With IT, it’s not just about introducing new technology, but a question of how to sustainably sunset the old. Storage solutions, for example, are only as satisfactory as your current data volume and level of security – once you add the risk of new threats, lack of hindsight into backup cleanliness, or even more data growth and your storage will quickly struggle.

    Listening to our customers, and in conversation with our alliances, Tectrade is aware of how, over the years, a technology skills shortage is not only common, but has a tangible impact on a business’ bottom line. In fact, it was recently predicted that a quarter of business leaders perceive that the skills shortage is costing their business more than $120,000 each year.

    Retaining and attracting skills is more than a recruitment challenge. With the urgency to digitally transform and remain modernized, businesses are more than ever caught in a race to have the right IT skills. According to the Digital Leadership Report, as much as 67% of senior technology leaders cite lack of skills as a reason why their companies are falling behind the pace of change.

    Where digital skills feel scarce at the best of times, The State of the Nation Report asked decision makers to reflect on their workforces. Sleepless nights, many are saying, have more to do with cyber security anxieties and skills shortages than anything else. The pipeline of available talent is shrinking fast. Concerningly, there’s a wide gap between the skills in today’s market and the required technologies of tomorrow.

    Let’s delve into the specifics of the skills shortage, examining its impact in the context of the US.

    Is the Future of IT Skills Optimistic?

    Over time, as businesses and cultures alike globalize and workforce become remote, the opportunities to diversity talent have only opened more doors. Yet, in the US, the number of job vacancies have surpassed the availability of talent. Combined with the financial challenges of recruiting staff every year, businesses are increasingly looking to Managed Services Providers for support.

    Even The Financial Times, in 2023, observed how “recruitment was harder than ever” with the majority of businesses finding this area a key challenge. Market analysts, in response, concluded that “technology experts are in short supply everywhere”. This suggests that the IT skills shortfall is effectively a global challenge – not just limited to markets where technology is critical.

    The Aging IBM i Workforce

    Back in 2015, the volume around IBM i skills shortage reached a kind of fever pitch. That meant, where falling revenue charts were concerned, skills shortages become noticeable enough that many started to blame lack of expertize for their businesses not gaining a larger competitive foothold in the market.
    The challenge with a specialist skillset (like IBM i) is, once these technicians retire, how does a business replace them.

    It’s very common actually: a business spends several years developing a deep, rich technology stack, only to become reliant on IT skills for its maintenance and daily operation. As certain skills retire out of a business, is it even possible to replace them?

    In some surveys, technology vendors even pointed at early-retirement schemes (which were popular cost-savings measures during the global pandemic) as a reason why skills are needing replacement. The real problem when you introduce the likes of IBM i skills in the picture is how it’s often perceived as a more niche discipline, making it harder to replace. The everyday operational realities of managing IBM operating systems are very different when compared to, say, running Windows. The transferability isn’t the same: skills don’t always hop neatly from one technology to the next.

    It’s a known problem within the IT landscape: technicians, especially IBM i experts, are amongst an aging demographic. All professionals eventually retire – but the risk, here, is how skills might fade away too. Whilst training and upskilling can help recirculate sought-after skills, but this can feel too much like wishful thinking.

    IBM i or even IBM AIX expertise, for example, is a skillset renowned for being harder than most to pin down. Despite how IBM i is known for powering many US organizations – guesstimates throw out stats as high as 125,000 organisations with IBM i in the mix – there’s a real risk that your skillsets, along with technicians, might just retire leaving you vulnerable.

    Just like chess pieces advancing, timing is everything in digital transformation. When it comes to retaining your skill share in 2024, there’s a bigger risk of losing out. Globally, the IT market is a transformative point: businesses need to retain skills to look after legacy systems but attract new ones to support emerging technologies like AI or hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solutions like IBM Storage Fusion.

    Where finding skills is no longer a cost-effective, nor quick, resolution to plugging-in new technologies to your operation, alliances with the likes of IT Managed Services Providers (MSPs) have become a popular and valuable option.

    Align to an MSP

    Are you suffering from the IT skill shortfall? Since 2022, the skills gap has been noticeably widened, reaching an all-time record high, where 70% of organizations had some level of difficulty in recruiting talent to keep up with the dramatic pace of change.

    In conversation with the wider market, clients are urgently looking for cost-effective answers to the IT talent shortage. They look to address this challenge through outsourcing specific technology areas to a managed services provider and use the likes of IT automation to relieve over-worked employees from the burden of mundane, repeatable tasks.

    At Tectrade, we make your IT work harder and smarter. Not only does this give back focus time to your staff, but your business will operationally benefit from our cost-efficient, secure solution delivery.
    We become an extension of our customers’ IT teams – we don’t replace them. We bring legacy and new skills into an organization to ensure digitally transformative projects can help enterprises scale to new, profitable heights.

    If you’re on the market for IBM i support specifically, you’ve come to the right place. You can read about IBM i’s following here, or get in-depth help from the leading experts today.

    For a no-obligation talk with one of our specialists, get in touch today and one of our team will be happy to listen and provide some guidance.

    About the author

    Philip Pennington

    Senior Technical Sales Architect