IT skills shortages have been an issue of concern for businesses and governments for more than twenty years. This will change over the next few years as IT skill levels increase, and become embedded into business activities.

In recent years, IT vendors have worked very closely with businesses and governments to ensure that training investments are made, which are centered around their products. Cisco’s Networking Academy is a great example of this. Cisco has partnered very closely with educational institutions and governments, around the world, to promote training around its products. This has created a situation in which people trained in IT networking feel comfortable working with Cisco products. More importantly, it has helped to address the shortfall in IT networking professionals.

However, as IT products become more standardized, cloud computing becomes mainstream, and software takes over from hardware in many areas, demand for IT skills will fall. Cloud computing typically involves the automaton of processes that were once relatively labor intensive. It also engenders the provision of services where users can configure software much more easily than was the case in the past. For example, a user can configure an ‘Amazon style’ storefront very easily for their ecommerce needs. Only a few years ago, the setting up of such a storefront was a highly complex activity that required specialized technical skills.

The skill levels required to carry out tasks that were once considered to be highly complex are falling. Simultaneously, the IT skill levels of the typical white collar worker are increasing. This is leading to less need for IT skills and for a need for ordinary workers to steadily improve their IT skills.

Thirty years ago, the individuals that worked with technology tended to possess comparatively high IT skills levels. Anybody that sought to work with technology required a significant amount of training and most ordinary workers did not touch computers. To many, computers were perceived to be devices with which only scientists worked.

Fifteen to twenty years ago, IT became democratized. PCs were found on the desks of most white collar workers. They became essential tools for carrying out tasks at work. It was soon assumed that ordinary workers would be able to operate PCs and undertake basic tasks with the programs that they were using.

Today, technology is much more embedded in the activities of the ordinary worker. The IT skill level of today’s ordinary worker is much higher than before and the technology tasks that they perform would have been considered to be highly complex in previous years. Assuming that this trend continues, we can assume that ordinary workers will be undertaking even more complex tasks in the years ahead.

In a few years’ time, we can expect ordinary workers to be procuring and managing their technology devices. Additionally, they will be leveraging cloud services to support their activities at work. This will increasingly be done without support from an IT organization.

Obviously, younger workers will come to the workplace with a higher level of IT skills than most of their older colleagues. However, these skills will need to be enhanced throughout their working lives. Older workers have had experience of acquiring new technical skills and will need to continue this until the end of their careers. Organizations will need to ensure that IT training is available to staff throughout their careers.

In summary, IT will become embedded in business activities. The IT skill levels of ordinary workers will continue to rise as IT becomes critical to their day to day activities. Skills that are seen as specialist today or ‘the preserve of the millennial generation’ will be normal in the next few years. This, of course, will have a profound impact on both buyers and sellers of IT products and services.