How business leaders can tackle the cloud skills gap head-on

a group of people using computers and smiling | How business leaders can tackle the cloud skills gap head-on

The technology industry relies on constant innovation, but all too often the skills and training required to make this possible are neglected. Take cloud computing, the technologies behind cloud are evolving incredibly rapidly, but workers are not being upskilled or trained quickly enough to keep up. The result is a vast and growing cloud skills gap. Just over half of British businesses (57 percent) now rank finding tech talent as their single biggest challenge, according to TechUK’s Digital Economy Monitor Survey.

Diving deeper into this, rapid developments in areas such as microservices, cloud-native applications, Kubernetes, containers and hybrid and multi-cloud environments mean that the skills required are evolving continuously, leaving business leaders with even further to go to catch up. By 2027, almost half of workers (44 percent) will see their core skills disrupted by shifts in technology and half of workers will not have access to adequate training to keep up. Cloud infrastructure underpins our smartphone-centric world and so addressing the cloud skills gap is vital to keeping the world economy moving, particularly in sectors such as manufacturing, telecoms and financial services.

A new way to find talent

When it comes to finding fresh talent, more businesses are looking outside of university-educated candidates to fill the demand. One of the main reasons for this is that school and university curriculums are also struggling to keep up with the rate of change. As a result, what students are learning is often out of date by the time they can put it into practice. The future lies in cloud computing, but the industry will continue to suffer if the school curriculum isn’t continually reviewed and updated.

For anyone looking to develop their cloud skills and enter the industry, there are several training and certification courses available. Many businesses view these as reputable qualifications, enabling prospective employees to elevate their skills and expertise to gain a competitive edge. Importantly, beginner cloud computing courses provide a broad introduction to all aspects of the industry, helping people learn the fundamentals. Once a candidate has completed an introductory course, they can then look at more advanced training programs that delve further into specific areas of the field, depending on their interests and the career path they want to take.

The skills that matter

The skills that are needed will depend on the organization, but knowledge of the basics, including cloud service platforms, programming languages such as Python, and application programming interfaces (APIs) will always help. Hybrid cloud skills are also worth investing in, with recent Canonical research finding that 83 percent of respondents are now using hybrid or multi-cloud architecture and too few organizations currently invest in these skills.

Kubernetes, the open-source system for managing containerized applications, is another important skill – it is rapidly crossing into the mainstream and enables business leaders to deliver microservices in a way that cuts costs. DevOps models, where development and operations teams work closely together, can help to manage cloud infrastructure, particularly among organizations that choose to manage cloud infrastructure on their own rather than opting for a managed service.

Whether a business is hiring new talent or developing and upskilling its existing talent, there is one key attribute to look out for that’s far more important than any skill a willingness to learn. Candidates who are already masters of multiple frameworks, skills and languages may be able to learn new skills more easily, but the willingness to engage with new technologies often cannot be taught. Having contributed to open-source projects is usually good evidence of this crucial ability to learn. Generally speaking, it also pays to hire people who can build applications, rather than dozens of project managers, as any program to upskill talent will be built around hands-on experience.

Implementing a skills program

As the newest generation of technology is created, developers, engineers, security professionals, DevOps team members, operations teams and more must continually learn and master how to work with it. To support this, businesses must implement a skills program. This can be done in many ways and can be as simple as encouraging teams to watch tutorials on YouTube. External experts can also be brought in to lead training sessions and workshops. If a small team within an organization works on using new technology to solve an existing problem, excitement will spread throughout the organization. It’s down to leaders to create opportunities for their teams to apply new technologies to new projects.

Another approach is to partner with a vendor. An organization should choose one that is familiar with cloud-native technology and open-source communities. The right vendor can help manage infrastructure and applications as a workforce upskills, targeting training to the right people as well as overseeing the open source software required.

A bright, cloudy future

The innovations of cloud computing offer enormous potential for any organization, but business leaders need to ensure their teams have the right skills. Attracting the right talent to drive cloud computing success might require a more scientific approach than those used in previous decades. Using advanced analytics can offer hiring teams data to help identify the right talent. At Canonical, we have implemented this type of approach, with our talent acquisition teams going far beyond a candidate’s qualifications to take a full 360-degree approach, analyzing attributes such as behavior to ensure candidates are a perfect fit.

Over the longer term, businesses will need to work hand-in-hand with the education sector to ensure young people are offered the right education and training to meet the demands of the modern workplace. For now, organizations should focus on delivering online courses for employees, allowing them to self-teach, and most importantly, spreading enthusiasm about the potential of cloud technology within the organization. For today’s workers, getting hands-on experience with the latest cloud tech is the best way to equip themselves for the future.