Changing Workforce Dynamics: Unleash the Power of the Professional Community

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The title of a recent InformationWeek article, “Skills Shortage? Quit Whining” caught our attention. In the article, the author highlights data from a recent Deloitte Consulting survey, which reported that 600,000 manufacturing jobs are currently going unfilled due to the lack of high tech skills needed to run the factories.[1]  Interestingly, skilled production workers and problem-solvers make up the broadest categories of employees.  Deloitte Consulting principal Tom Morrison said, “Many manufacturers are using the same approaches to talent development as they were a decade ago. New performance tools and formal processes like industry certifications should be playing a larger role in any manufacturer’s talent management plan.”[2]
The InformationWeek author goes on to parallel what is taking place in manufacturing with what is now taking place by information technology and cybersecurity employers in government, and to his point, it is being met with the same indifference. Not long ago, companies and government often relied on training programs to train new hires in necessary skills to meet evolving demands. Granted, these programs were costly, but employers who made the investment ended up with a skilled workforce. 
Gone are the days when employees are considered the most valuable asset of an organization. So, where does the responsibility lay for changing these dynamics? Everyone played a part in getting the workforce in this situation, so it’s up to the employees, companies and government to work together to solve this problem. IT workers should determine what field is right for them and seek training to meet the employers’ needs. As the InformationWeek article suggests, companies and non-profits should coordinate with federal, state and local governments to develop programs to meet the technical skills gap, but this approach does not offer a quick fix.
While we’re waiting for government to wake up to the fact that it needs to invest in its workforce, we should be looking to professional communities, such as local association chapters or forums, for help. These groups consist of front-line professionals representing all skill and experience levels and offer a fertile ground for knowledge sharing, ongoing education and skills development that matches the current needs of the market. According to (ISC)²’s recent Career Impact Survey, only 13% of US federal information security professionals said they expect an increase in their agency’s 2012 professional development and training budget. In absence of budget, perhaps both workers already in the and those looking to enter the field would benefit from a greater level of involvement in local professional communities, which will help “stand in the gap” for those seeking new skills, while the broader challenge of the workforce skills gap is being resolved.

[1] American factories dry need for 600,000 skilled workers, Dee DePass, Star Tribune, March 23, 2012. 

[2] Deloitte, Manufacturing Institute, 2011 Skills Gap Report, Boiling Point? The skills gap in US Manufacturing. 

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