by Sylvain Kalache

Tech companies pitching in to battle the talent shortage

Oct 19, 2016
Enterprise Applications

Tech companies are struggling to find the right talent as the need for more qualified tech workers explodes. They're finding that great salaries and perks don't work if the supply of available workers doesn't meet demand.

Tech companies are increasingly struggling to find the right talent even as the industry’s need for more qualified tech workers explodes. They are finding that offering great salaries and perks does not work if there is not enough supply to meet demand.

And it’s going to get much worse. In the the U.S. alone, according to federal CTO Megan Smith, there will be a shortfall of 1 million engineers trained with the necessary tech skills in the next decade.

Companies no longer believe that government will fill the talent pipeline and therefore they are slowly realizing that they need to become part of the solution. After all, their growth is at stake, if not their survival. Among many initiatives, some giant tech companies are leading the effort: Oracle recently launched a program called Design Tech High School on its campus, Google is helping minorities to get into coding and Salesforce donated $22.5 million to the Oakland, Calif., public school system to enhance the the city’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum.

Even smaller companies are pitching in. Domain name registrar Gandi just donated space in its offices in downtown San Francisco for software engineering students of the Holberton School, which I co-founded. Incident resolution software platform company PagerDuty helped drive a DevOps training program by donating free accounts, and many businesses large and small are encouraging executives to volunteer to mentor students.

And that’s not all. Considering the pace at which change in our world is accelerating, companies need to adapt and find skilled IT professionals who have knowledge of the latest trends. The artificial intelligence industry epitomizes this scenario. With the recent massive improvement in deep learning, there is an equally massive lack of software engineers qualified on technologies that are at the heart of self-driving cars, personal assistants, chatbots and even health.

The market for these technologies is huge, and companies must arm themselves to successfully battle for talent. The best tech professionals are already polishing up their portfolios, but most of the workforce will need to be guided through the process. LinkedIn understood this and recently announced LinkedIn Learning, a platform for companies to offer and suggest online courses to their employees so that they stay up to date.

Obviously, many initiatives are currently oriented toward professionals and the higher-education demographic, but we need to make changes at earlier stages of our education system. According to the World Economic Forum, “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.” The current and next generation of workers will constantly need to retrain and retool to take on new opportunities.

Companies are already making sure that their employees are being retrained, paying students to work for them while they finish their studies or funding their scholarships in exchange for a commitment to work for them. Integrating education within the company cycle is already happening and it will surely increase. So it seems, I think, small and midsize companies will need to continue to support existing organizations training the type of talent they need while big corporations will mostly create and manage their own training centers. Oracle, Google, Gandi and SalesForce started the trend in the past few months, and I believe it is on a Musk trajectory, skyrocketing.