In the last decade, I've closely monitored the IT industry’s changing skills demands, and the training and certification processes that help meet those demands. The rate of change in the last two years has been extreme to say the least, leaving many IT professionals scrambling to gain new competencies. With 2022 set to be no less eventful, here’s how IT skills and training will evolve over the next few years.
Soft skills will be just as important as technical skills
The world is changing fast: new technologies emerge, and current ones become obsolete in the blink of an eye. In this environment, it’s not only specific technical competencies that are important: soft skills are also in higher demand.
By 2025, we will see complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management and emotional intelligence become some of the most important skills required in the workplace – arguably just as important as technical competencies.
This trend has been underway for a few years already. Back in 2016, the World Economic Forum predicted “Five years from now, over one-third of skills that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed.”
Today’s skills insufficient to meet tomorrow's demands
In a world where skills requirements are changing fast, combined with a severe shortage of IT professionals in some areas, we will see HR and learning development professionals prioritise upskilling and reskilling for their existing staff in 2022. They know they can't simply hire their way out of the problem (as the talent pool is so thin in certain areas).
A 2021 report by LinkedIn found upskilling and reskilling to be the number one focus in 59 percent of organisations' learning programs, a 15 percent increase in just 12 months.
Certification is the name of the game
The acquisition of skills is one thing. Verification of those skills (ie certification) is another, and Australia has lagged behind the rest of the world in this regard. I've seen that start to change over the last couple of years, and expect that trend to accelerate in 2022.
Organisations will increasingly recognise the significance and need for certified professionals, and there are several reasons for this. Vendors such as AWS and Microsoft offer highly-specific, role-based certifications, which are aligned to different positions throughout an organisation. These certifications meet the needs of hiring managers, by ensuring competency in the most important skills an organisation needs, no matter how specific or unique.
Furthermore, when an organisation employs certified individuals who have a higher level of competency than non-certified individuals, they don't want to go back! Certified individuals create a higher skills benchmark in any organisation.
Additionally, pandemic-enforced isolation made the process of gaining certification much easier. People no longer need to book an exam at a testing centre, many exams can be self-proctored (there is no separate, independent oversight).
Hybrid workforce demanding new skills
A large portion of the workforce will continue to work remotely in 2022. This means skills in the cloud products of AWS, Microsoft and Google will continue to be in very high demand, as organisations rely heavily on the cloud to facilitate collaboration. Also, with a decentralised working environment, IT Service Management will become even more crucial – so it's no coincidence that ITIL4 Foundation will remain in extremely high demand.
As another consequence of the rapid transition to cloud, there has never been a higher level of cyber risk than right now. With many organisations hastily introducing new cloud programs at the start of the pandemic, we have been left with insecure cloud environments, and a lack of skilled cloud security professionals who understand how to manage these complex, risk-laden environments.
Many organisations don't know how many places their sensitive data is stored in, and potentially exposed, making easy pickings for threat actors. So, we will see demand for cloud security training grow immensely in 2022. We will also see greater demand for generic cybersecurity training for all staff, as human error remains a major contributor to data breaches.
Go beyond personalised learning
On-demand exams are just one education trend I see coming to the fore in 2022, hyper-personalisation is another.
We will see learning become increasingly customised for each individual, via the use of artificial intelligence. Over the next few years, IT professionals will be able to craft a learning journey based on their specific goals and interests, leading to greater engagement and better learning outcomes.
The benefits of personalisation are well-recognised. Back in 2018, a report from learning technology company Saba found personalisation resulted in positive impacts for both learners and businesses, with strong links between personalisation and improved performance.
In 2022 and beyond, the prospects for established and aspiring IT professionals look good. The certification process has never been easier (successfully passing one is as challenging as ever!), and certifications are increasingly sought after. IT professionals who couple development of technical competence with a focus on their soft skills and their “emotional intelligence” will do very well, in a sector still plagued by skills shortages.
Jon Lang is the Chief Executive Officer of DDLS, Australia’s largest provider of corporate ICT and cybersecurity training.