Addressing the cloud skills gap

Students sitting around a desk
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As an industry underpinned by innovation, the technology sector can be its own worst enemy when it comes to skills. Cloud technologies are evolving more rapidly than previous generations, but workers aren’t being trained or upskilled quickly enough to meet this demand. As a result, the industry continues to face a widening skills gap, with just over half of UK businesses (57%) ranking hiring the right tech talent as their biggest challenge, according to TechUK’s latest Digital Economy Monitor Survey.

The skills required in this challenge are constantly evolving, too, thanks to the developments in areas such as cloud-native applications, microservices, Kubernetes, containers, and hybrid and multi-cloud environments. The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2027, 44% of workers will see their core skills disrupted because technology is moving too fast, and only half of workers will have access to adequate training. In a world where we rely heavily on our phones, the data they need and their underlying cloud infrastructure - addressing the cloud skills gap is vital for success – particularly within the likes of financial services, telecoms and manufacturing.

Cedric Gegout

VP of Product Management at Canonical.

Looking beyond degrees to gain quality talent

When it comes to finding the talent, more are looking outside of university-educated candidates in order 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 As a result, what students are learning is often out of date by the time they can put it into practice.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 to develop their cloud skills and enter the industry, there are a number of 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 to learn the fundamentals. Once a candidate has completed an introductory course, they can then look to more advanced training programs that delve further into specific areas of the field, dependent on what their interest is and the career path they want to take.

The key skills to invest in

Which skills 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% 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.

Developing 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 them. 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. There are also external experts that can 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 to manage infrastructure and applications as a workforce upskills, targeting training to the right people as well as overseeing the open source software required.

A changing world

The cloud computing market is ripe with technological advancements, but to ensure they can reap the benefits, businesses need to have the right team in place. To do so, they need to attract the right talent. Companies should look to apply a degree of science to their hiring process - such as using advanced analytics to provide hiring teams with data they can use to help identify suitable talent. This is something we have implemented at Canonical, with our talent acquisition teams taking a full 360 approach. For example, it isn’t just a candidate's qualifications that are taken into consideration; their behaviors are also analyzed to ensure they are the right person for the role.

Attracting the right talent also comes down to students being taught the skills needed to succeed in today’s world of modern work. In the longer term, businesses need to work with the education sector to ensure these skills are being developed. In the near future, organizations need to focus on self-teaching, online courses, and spreading enthusiasm for these exciting technologies within their organizations. Getting hands-on is the best way to learn.

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Cédric Gégout is VP of Product Management at Canonical, the publisher of Ubuntu. Cédric has more than 25 years of professional experience in the information technology and telecommunications industries. He holds more than 27 patents and a Ph.D in Artificial Intelligence. Cédric is a seasoned innovation catalyst and a vivid promoter of entrepreneurship in large organisations.