IT Workforce Can't Meet Demand for Cloud Skills

According to a recent IDC study, demand for cloud skills will increase at six times the rate of overall IT skills and the talent pool simply isn't big enough to accommodate the growth.

The cloud computing job market is continuing to mature and as companies define what cloud computing is to them, they will a need a new breed of cross-trained specialists to meet business goals. But finding those cloud-savvy IT pros may prove to a challenge.

A Microsoft-commissioned IDC study, which is being released later today reveals a talent shortage unlike any we have seen in the past. The study is based on interviews with more than 600 hiring managers from around the world and investigates the impact that cloud computing will have on IT employment and its influence on the way organizations staff their IT departments.

The IT market is expected to grow roughly 1.1 percent--to 2.7 percent through 2020 and cloud-related skills represent virtually all the growth opportunities in IT employment worldwide. According to the IDC study, the demand for cloud computing will grow at six times the rate of IT skills overall.

IT cloud jobs growth

While normally talent gaps are caused by rapidly expanding markets or are limited to a geographic sector, the cloud market is different. In fact, according to the study, finding people with the right mix of cloud skills will be the number 1 IT challenge for companies in the coming years.

cloud jobs by region

"Despite modest growth of the overall IT sector in the U.S., cloud-ready jobs are increasing as we head into 2013, but with this increase comes the harsh reality that workforces around the world are steps behind when it comes to attaining the skills necessary to thrive in the cloud computing industry," says Cushing Anderson, program vice president at IDC.

IDC lists the top three reasons that cloud jobs will go unfulfilled as the following:

  • Lack of training
  • Lack of certification
  • Lack of experience

In general, IT talent shortages are temporary. According to IDC, however, the availability of skilled cloud computing IT workers will be a persistent and pervasive challenge that will require employers to create a sound strategy to get out ahead of this trend.

"Unlike IT skill shortages in the past, solving this skills gap is extremely challenging, given that cloud brings a new set of skills, which haven't been needed in the past. There is no one-size-fits-all set of criteria for jobs in cloud computing. Therefore, training and certification is essential for preparing prospective job candidates to work in cloud-related jobs," says Anderson.

Hoping to address the issue of cloud training, Microsoft recently announced that it has made changes in its certification programs for the cloud, including the upcoming certifications in Windows 8, which has cloud computing focus areas.

These certifications, according to Microsoft, are important for those who want to gain the skillset needed to work in the cloud and for companies looking to benefit from the cloud. Microsoft recently launched the Microsoft Virtual Academy, a program that lets IT professionals access free self-paced training resources.

Taking Cloud Training to Middle School

Microsoft also reports it is working through the Microsoft IT Academy to prepare middle school, high school and college students for careers in tomorrow's IT cloud environment. "The opportunity that the cloud presents is significant, and we want to be certain that the workforce has the skills to share in that opportunity," says Lutz Ziob, general manager of Microsoft Learning.

Survey results indicate that almost two-thirds of companies worldwide are planning, implementing or using cloud computing in some fashion and more than 50 percent of businesses agree that cloud computing is a high priority for them in 2013. That said, three quarters of those businesses report having lingering apprehension about the cloud when it comes to security, access and/or data control.

"Despite modest growth of the IT sector overall in the U.S., cloud-ready jobs are increasing as we head into 2013, but with this increase comes the harsh reality that workforces around the world are steps behind when it comes to attaining the skills necessary to thrive in the cloud computing industry," Anderson says.

Demand for cloud-related positions will grow by 26 percent annually through 2015 and, according to Anderson. There simply won't be enough qualified people to fulfill all the emerging roles. "There is clearly not enough 'experience' in the marketplace to qualify candidates for the expanding number of jobs in cloud-related roles," says Anderson.

Get Out Ahead of the Cloud Hiring Trend

What can companies do in the short term? David Foote from Foote partners said in a recent article that "cloud training is essentially cross-training. Taking people with skills in different areas of infrastructure, development, architecture, networking, server configuration or administration and then adding a set of skills into those people to make them a different flavor of the specialist that they once were."

Foote's recommendation is to focus on in-house training. "A lot of the best cloud people will come out of your own internal training efforts," says Foote. Anderson echoed Foote, "Training and certification will play an essential role in preparing IT professionals."

If cloud computing advances as IDC and Microsoft expect it to, there could be as many as 7 million cloud-related jobs in IT worldwide by 2015 and while nearly every IT organization is seeking some type of cloud-enabling capability, according to IDC, the workforce doesn't appear to be ready.

Rich Hein is a senior writer for CIO.com. He covers IT careers. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.

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