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Cloud skills are in high demand but IT pros don't see the need to retrain

Cloud skills are in high demand but IT pros don’t see the need to retrain

With enterprise adoption of cloud services steadily gaining momentum in the UK, many, including the British government, have called on the IT sector and educational institutions to retrain and prepare the next generation of IT personnel for the unique challenges these technology platforms present. But recently released research suggests that while IT professionals rate their cloud-specific skills fairly poorly, most have not and do not see a need to acquire any new cloud skills.

According to the Data Health Check report released by disaster recovery and infrastructure as a service provider Databarracks, which surveyed over 400 UK IT professionals, 43 per cent of UK IT professionals rate their current competence around cloud service implementation, integration and management as either poor or very poor. Only seven per cent rated their skills in this area as excellent.

The survey’s findings are consistent with what many view as a lack of competence in cloud-specific skills, which include new approaches to application development and virtualisation, and require knowledge of emerging technologies like software defined networking, for example.

But despite a lack of competency in this area, 54 per cent of respondents have not received any new cloud-specific training in the past 12 months, and 53 per cent don’t plan to in the future. That 64 per cent of the same group claim their businesses have implemented at least one cloud service speaks to growing concern voiced by CIOs and IT leaders that these organisations don’t have the skills necessary to manage the next generation of services slowly creeping into their IT estates.

“These results paint a worrying picture. The survey doesn’t suggest an immediate threat to jobs as a direct result of cloud computing but as businesses continue to use more cloud services there is clearly a new skillset required to manage them,” said Peter Groucutt, managing director at Databarracks.

Groucutt explained that cloud services will not replace traditional IT systems, but as they become more popular he said IT pros will spend less time focusing on managing internal physical systems and more time on systems that support the businesses. These systems are increasingly software as a service-based, or hosted on external virtualised infrastructure (or both), which requires new skills – not just in devops, but a broader range of IT functions.

“Cloud services allow IT teams to focus the majority of their time on using technology to best serve the business. To do this successfully, they still need to be firmly backed up by a strong workforce, with an appropriate set of skills and qualifications. Training in the more commonly used cloud platforms such as VMware’s vCloud and Amazon Web Services will serve particularly useful in the current market,” he said, echoing similar claims made earlier this year by the European Commission, which is in the process of bolstering ICT education across the continent.

The results are worrying, and may suggest that while IT professionals generally seem to rate their cloud-specific skills fairly poorly, a majority of them don’t see the need to update their skills sets in line with growing cloud adoption. And that’s a problem, not just for existing IT professionals but the next generation of IT pros (and the economies that depend on them). According to IDC 1.7 million cloud-related IT jobs globally went unfilled in 2012 because applicants lacked the necessary skills, certification and experience, with that figure rising to well over two million this year, and the research and analysis firm said demand for these skills is growing at 26 per cent annually.

“Employees must ensure that they remain relevant in today’s changing market by gaining the appropriate skills and qualifications,” Groucutt added.