Recent Sage research shows that US employers are demanding higher technical skills from new hires. The research was presented last week at the Sage Partner Summit event in Dallas. It showed that 46% see cloud computing experience as a desired skill, and 40% want coding experience.
Aziz Benmalek, President, Sage North America, and EVP Global Partner Organization, Sage, said, “Customers are looking to their channel partners to help make digitalisation a reality as they embrace new revenue streams and invest with an eye on the future. They are being asked to provide expertise in the most complex technological areas – from protection against the latest cyber threats to the enablement of AI and ML.
“This requires the channel workforce to shift – at Sage we are prioritising providing our channel partners with the tools and technology tools needed to thrive.”
What are employers looking for?
The study shows a greater emphasis on technical skills in the US than in the UK. However, Sage believes it is more about external factors than the need for those skills. It says that UK partners are focusing more on essential business roles (36%) than their US counterparts.
In the US, the key skills that employers are looking for are:
- Cloud computing (53%)
- Data engineering (52%)
- Cyber security skills (48%)
- Coding (45%)
- AI/ML development (44%)
In the UK, those numbers are:
- Cloud computing (39%)
- Cyber security skills (39%)
- Coding skills (35%)
Time to train that workforce
With a shortage of skilled employees, the question is, how will companies attract those employees? There is a real risk of wage inflation that will disadvantage many SMEs. The other risk is of growing pay gaps between employees. It threatens to slow down the move towards greater salary transparency.
The solution for many will be training their workforce. Positively, 39% of the partners said that they have been investing in upskilling their employees over the last 18 months. The question is, is that enough? That does not seem to be something answered in this study.
In the UK, engineering companies have been taking on increasing numbers of apprentices to create a workforce pipeline. Meanwhile, in both the US and UK, the shortages of doctors are causing GP practices to take on physician associates. These are far from being trained as GPs, but they fill a support role when there are not enough GPs. Other industries are having to make similar decisions around skilled staff.
Time to outsource?
It would have been interesting to have seen where partners saw this leading. Do they see companies being forced to work with MSPs if they can’t find the skills? Do they see a growing freelancer movement as those with those skills go self-employed? If so, what impact will that have on SMEs in particular?
Cybersecurity already has a well-documented problem with a shortage of people. That has already pushed an increasing number of companies into deals with Managed Security Services Providers (MSSPs). The question is, will we see resellers enter this channel as some have done data storage and backup?
One thing that might lead to more outsourcing is data analytics and AI enablement. 40% of resellers think customers will increase their revenue from data analytics and AI software enablement. To achieve that will mean better tools for automation and better-skilled staff. With everyone fighting for those employees, will this lead to more outsourcing?
On the accountancy side, this is possible. Accountants are already good at analytics, and many have invested in AI to automate accountancy tasks. Helping customers offload the pressure on their accounts department may create a new income stream for them.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean?
The challenge of skills shortages has been a building issue for years. Businesses blame the education system, but that’s generally unfair. To change an educational curriculum is a multi-year job. Courses must be designed, tested and run in beta before they go nationwide. For the courses to address these skills shortages, you are talking 5-7 years. Even then, there would still need to be on-the-job training delivered by employers.
Employers must accept that they have been slow to do the training. As this study shows, that lack of urgency is coming back to bite people. Resellers, MSPs and others might see an opportunity here but need the same staff as their customers. As the study shows, increasing numbers are looking to train, but they are also trying to recruit. If the latter, are they prepared to pay premium prices? If the former, how will they retain staff when larger enterprises come looking for them?
The whole job and skills situation is a challenge across the board. Perhaps the biggest thing this study shows, or at least the part Sage has released, is that upskilling is taking place. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change next year.