How the tech talent shortage requires creative thinking

While American hiring is not back to normal yet, a recent report from the National Foundation for American Policy revealed that there are more than 1 million available job postings in the United States in technology-related fields—from system administrators to data scientists and security analysts.

Since the onset of the global pandemic, NFAP also found that the need for talent in computer-related fields has risen by 11% across 10 of 13 occupational categories, with postings for computer and information research scientists specifically increasing by as much as 21%.

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Mark Concannon is an entrepreneur and human capital specialist whose career has included advising the autonomous vehicle industry and exploring new applications for augmented reality. He says that, with tech ecosystems beginning to take shape and an anticipated boom in technology across many industries, the challenge HR and business leaders face is clear: How can they mine America’s most valuable asset—talent—to meet the unique challenges of the moment?

“This gap is not a forecast, but a current need,” Concannon says. “Foreign resources cannot do it. We need to fill it with people here, in the U.S., and we can.”

In his over 20 years of consulting across a broad range of industries, Concannon says he has witnessed great success in smart, hardworking Americans transitioning to new industries, taking up new skills and overcoming barriers that are often considered “too challenging.”

Not only does the U.S. have that talent, he believes, it now also has more technology to accelerate their movement to new areas, along with the ability to allow workers in this sector to work from anywhere in the country.

Related: 6 ways we’re getting diversity recruiting all wrong

“We are no longer tied to the metropolitan areas that are often associated with technology industries,” Concannon explains, noting that the combination of corporate culture shifts, improved remote working tools, accelerated learning through virtual reality, improved telecommunications—and pandemic-driven proof that workers are productive when remote—all come together to make the American workforce more flexible and able to adapt.

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Employers, of course, must play a key role in making that happen, he says.  And it will take some creative thinking. First, existing pools of trained, flexible workers are available through consulting and professional staffing firms. Concannon says taking advantage of these resource pools can lessen the pressure from employers, while allowing investment in existing in-house teams.

Next, Concannon says, highly immersive technologies—for instance, virtual reality—applied to learning are proving significantly more effective than classroom study, video-based classes and other previously used approaches. Finally, trends such as VR hardware costs lessening, “all-in-one” units meeting performance expectations, “no code” offerings emerging for scenario training and lower-cost software development capabilities all are driving adoption of these solutions to help individuals move into new technology skills.

Also see: Why ‘programmatic’ is changing hiring

Concannon notes that there also is a role for job candidates in this transformation: They must take on the challenge and devote the time to “be frustrated, be educated, be challenged” and see through the process of expanding job skills, so they can embrace the opportunities technology is creating.

“We often get complacent, as people, and are too willing to stop when things are difficult,” he says. “We must dedicate ourselves to pushing through the hard parts.” Concannon concludes that earning new skills not only opens doors to new career paths, but also helps those individuals be healthier mentally and physically—a win-win for workers and employers.

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