by Josh Althuser

4 facts job-seekers should know about the technical skill gap in 2016

Aug 31, 2016

The technical talent gap is causing growing concerns among businesses. How can both job seekers and employers address these issues?

The technical skill gap is a growing concern in the modern workplace. The internet has created consumers who want everything at their fingertips, and so businesses have been forced to go through a digital transformation to meet consumer needs and be able to compete with the businesses that were already innovating online.

The problem? There aren’t enough people with the technical know-how to support all of these businesses going digital.

In fact, 39% of U.S. employers have stated that they have had difficulty hiring new employees because of a lack of available talent. So what are employers doing to fill their technical positions, and how does this affect job seekers?

Here are four facts job-seekers should know about the technical skill gap in 2016.

1. The problem with education

Part of the cause of the technical skill gap is simple: technology evolves faster than educational courses can keep up. Universities can’t teach students the skills necessary to complete a technical job when the skills needed change every few years, so companies are unable to hire candidates right out of college the way they used to.

However, this doesn’t mean job seekers should ignore education. Rather, if they are interested in technical jobs, they need to approach education differently. Online programs like Treehouse and Coursera offer cutting-edge courses that traditional schools don’t have the capacity to teach. Innovative schools like Paris-based 42 give coders challenges, not curricula, to hone their skills, and the school is opening a campus in Silicon Valley this fall. To fill the skill gap, it’s becoming more and more important for job seekers to try new methods of education that can keep up with technology’s evolution.

2. The lack of employee training

The issue isn’t just with educational systems; it’s with employers too. Sure, businesses claim that they can’t find the technical talent they need for their open positions, but as it turns out, they don’t want to train candidates to do those jobs, either.

In an article for the Washington Post, journalist Peter Cappelli cites studies that show the decline of on-job training. In 1979, employees received two weeks of training. By 1995, that figure had dropped to under 11 hours. And by 2011? Only one in five employees surveyed said that they received any on-site training at all.

This means that it’s more important than ever for job seekers to be applying to jobs they are qualified for. If you want a technical role at a company, know exactly what you need to do and be prepared to start immediately. You’re a much more attractive applicant if you can provide what a business needs right away.

3. The truth of gender inequality

Technical jobs are dominated mostly by white men. It’s an unfortunate truth, and one that is increasing the skill gap. Minority races are underrepresented in fields across the tech industry, but perhaps most surprising is the degree to which women are absent in tech. Despite 74% of young girls expressing interest in tech, women make up only 18% of computer science majors and 26% of computing jobs. Ultimately, only 5% of leadership positions are held by women.

To talk about a skill gap, you have to address underrepresented parts of the population that could fill it. Many companies are actively addressing the need to increase diversity, and female job seekers are in a highly desirable position where companies are eager to hire them to better balance their culture.

4. The rise of the freelance economy

What happens when companies can’t find the technical skill they need in their local community? They search elsewhere. The concept of remote work once seemed like mere fancy, yet with the rise of communication tools like Skype and collaborative tools like Dropbox, telecommuting has become a viable option for businesses.

With the technical skill gap here in the U.S., companies are looking overseas to find the freelance talent they need. Increasingly popular freelance platforms like Toptal connect companies with international talent to fill technical jobs. Regardless of whether you’re abroad or not, businesses are increasingly hiring freelancers for technical projects because the hiring risk is lower and it reduces long-term operational costs. If your full-time job hunt in the tech industry is unsuccessful, consider trying out freelancing opportunities, and you may find yourself hired sooner than you think.

What else is going on with the technical skill gap this year? Leave a comment below!