The skills gap – a decades-old labor enigma where workers are available but need reskilling – is about to metastasize into a skills vacuum. By 2022, the demand for artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain and cybersecurity skills will exceed the supply of workers creating a shortage of 900,000 highly-compensated jobs.

For those keeping score, this talent shortfall projects to an annual 1.4 billion hours of lost productivity and could alter future capital investment plans as chief information officers allocate more budget to acquiring talent and less to acquiring new technology.

Don’t count on higher education institutions to come to the rescue. According to the most current data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. colleges and universities conferred 286,133 science, technology, engineering and math degrees in 2016. Just to meet IDC’s projected shortfall, colleges would need to boost STEM degree production to 1.2 million diplomas, an increase of 415 percent.

The U.S. skills shortage does come with a silver lining: increasing the introduction of alternatives to the four-year college degree. Parth Detroja, author of Swipe to Unlock, offers a reason why: “There is a fundamental disconnect with what is being taught in the classroom and what one really needs to know to be a contributing member of the modern workforce.”

A novel approach to learning called digital badges is beginning to garner attention among hiring managers. Not unlike merit badges earned by Boy and Girl scouts, the digital badge process works like this: an entity, like Inc., creates an online course curriculum for its ecosystem of developers. An individual enrolls in the course and upon completion awards a digital badge to the graduate. The recipient can then embed a live link to the digital badge on professional networking sites like LinkedIn, or resumes submitted to

Kathleen deLaski, founder of Education Design Lab, says digital badges “have gained a lot of traction quickly but to fulfill the promise that they will help articulate hirable skills, we need hiring managers to give clearer market signals to validate these as credentials.” Results from a study fielded among 1,000 technology hiring executives by iCIMS suggests corporate hiring professionals are sending those signals. The study found: 1) 80 percent of respondents “would offer tech job candidates the same salary regardless of whether they had a relevant tech degree”, 2) 61 percent say “a four-year college degree alone does not prepare job seekers to be successful in today’s workforce” and 3) 45 percent believe “in the next two years a coding boot camp certificate will be as meaningful a qualification for skilled technology degrees as a college degree.”

Scott Bittle, director of communications at Burning Glass Technologies, says digital badges address two problems: “one is that employers need a more precise way of determining whether potential hires have the skills they need and the second is these digital badge credentials can be earned in short training sessions, which are both quicker and cheaper than a traditional degree.”

For chief information officers, there is much to like about digital badges. But there are also shortcomings. Most notably, the lack of industry standards for course quality or the amount of personal commitment a person must make to earn a digital badge. Dr. Roger Schank, founder of Experiential Teaching Online, and former chief education officer at Carnegie Mellon University, says “in the end credentials only mean what we think they mean; ‘I am a high school graduate’ used to mean something, now if you bragged about that you’d be laughed at. The real issue is what one has actually done and can be supported by any credential that means something to people. The future is digital credentials.”

The IDC Futurescape 2019 report also says over the next forty-eight months a digital tsunami of 500 million new applications will be created, a production level equal to the number of applications created over the past forty years! To make that prediction a reality, Frank Gens, chief analyst at International Data Corporation, says corporate cultures must change to a point where “everyone is considered a developer.” Embracing digital badges is a prudent way chief information officers, and their chief human resource officers colleagues, can hire, reskill and retain the best talent to build all those applications. And fill all those 900,000 open jobs.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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