Is the Tech Skills Gap Closing?
- The demand for tech skills is outpacing the number of qualified job-seekers.
- As businesses depend more on remote work, the need for tech support jobs will increase.
- Depending on your background, you could switch to a tech job without returning to school.
News outlets have covered the tech skills gap for years. Although our culture and economy have become increasingly reliant on computers and automated technology, the U.S. workforce has not kept pace with relevant training and education.
Have you seen politicians talk about the failing auto industry? Or the plight of the coal miner? That's the tech skills gap in action. Workers in older industries often do not have the job skills necessary to transition into growing fields like cybersecurity or IT.
But is the tech skills gap closing? It depends on who you ask. There is no data that targets and tracks the tech skills gap exclusively. Looking at the available information and expert opinions, there are reasons to be both concerned and optimistic.
The Tech Skills Gap Is Growing
According to the Pew Research Center, only 20% of workers whose jobs could be performed from home actually worked remotely before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in 2020, 71% of those same professionals reported teleworking. Before the pandemic, it was hard to imagine being more reliant on technology than we already were, but here we are. "Zoom meeting" and "screen fatigue" became common phrases.
Much has changed due to COVID-19, including our use of technology. Schools have altered their lesson plans, offices have reorganized to adapt to remote work, and families have learned to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries virtually.
As businesses became more dependent on technology and remote work, demand for cybersecurity and tech support jobs increased. Forbes reports that 40% of companies hired for tech-related positions in 2020. And 66% of companies plan to hire more tech staff in 2021.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists 10 major fields under the umbrella of computer and information technology occupations. Of those 10 areas, just one sector is in decline: computer programming. The BLS projects positive job outlooks for the other nine specializations. For instance, the BLS projects 31% job growth between 2019 and 2029 for information security analysts — a much faster rate of growth than the average projected growth of 4%.
Based on this information, it's clear that the tech industry is expanding, and the demand for jobs is high. However, it is more difficult to understand whether there is a lack of qualified candidates to fill those positions.
Maybe the Tech Skills Gap Isn't So Bad
Some argue that the tech skills gap isn't as dire as many might think. Data can be misinterpreted — there are many job openings in tech, but do they go unfilled?
In a 2017 article for MIT Technology Review, Andrew Weaver noted that only 15% of IT help desks reported extended vacancies. Weaver found the most prolonged vacancies in less desirable overnight shifts.
While the tech industry is much larger than just IT support, this is a great example of how data can be misinterpreted. Weaver's article suggests that aspiring tech workers should review the data critically before jumping into a new career.
Additionally, for folks who do want to change careers and move into tech, additional education might not be required. Each candidate and company is different, but some information suggests moving into tech might not require considerable retraining — depending on your background and experience.
There are in-demand tech roles that require less training than you might think. For example, the BLS reports that computer support specialists, web developers, and digital designers often don't need more than an associate degree. These careers are projected to grow by 8% between 2009 and 2019. You may also be able to pursue some of these jobs after graduating from a coding bootcamp.
Additionally, Weaver suggested that more STEM graduates won't necessarily guarantee the closure of the tech skills gap. Weaver's research showed that employers looking for high-level tech skills did not have trouble filling those positions. Rather, many employers struggle to find qualified candidates who possess strong writing and math skills.
Should I Get a Job in Tech?
It depends. You should consider asking yourself a few questions first: What skills do I already have that could apply to a job in tech? Am I interested in the work? Can I get training through my current employer and shift into a tech-focused position? These are all questions to consider before making a major career change.
While the tech skills gap might factor into your decision-making process, it shouldn't be the only reason to look for a job in tech.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Tech Skills Gap
The tech skills gap refers to the increasing number of jobs that require coding literacy or strong computer skills versus the lack of qualified candidates. Essentially, the demand for tech skills is greater than the supply of qualified job-seekers.
Yes. In the United States, there is a continual demand for tech jobs. For many years, the demand for these jobs hasn't declined.
This is a multi-factor issue. It's hard to pinpoint one reason or a clear explanation. One factor is our increasing reliance on technology to support the work we do. Another is the lack of accessible and up-to-date training available in the U.S.