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Network Skill Level Gap Is Growing But Growth Opportunities Abound!

Sep 3, 2008
A recent IDC report sponsored by the Cisco Learning Institute reveals a huge networking skills gap is emerging in North America, which spells trouble for enterprises.

Listen to this: "600,000 IT workers were needed to install, configure, manage and secure networks in North America in 2007, 14% of the total IT workforce." However, IDC reports that another 180,000 engineers with wireless as well as traditional network engineering experience will need to be added by 2011 to keep pace with advances in technology that is transforming the role of the network.

The convergence of voice and video traffic are quickly transforming the growing complexity of networks at a torrid pace. IDC estimates that the skills gap in VOIP should grow to 19% by 2011. This changing profile in the role of the network plays a key role in the skills shortage. Network enabled collaboration tools such as social networking apps and the Webex conferencing/collaboration solutions we use in our business each and every day are demanding a new set of IT skills to deliver business value.

My perspective is two-fold on this issue; the first is what I have seen in the resources we have attempted to hire! We give a very straightforward quick written/oral test to all new technical hires. This requires basic networking knowledge and some Unix commands. On average, (after filters from reputable recruiting firms, some with 5-10 years experience) less than 10% pass muster for the first filter we use in our hiring process. This is a troubling fact, which has cost us considerable time and effort to secure the right resources with competent skills. So I can say from our market assessment in a very strong technological job skills market, core Unix and networking foundation skills are slipping.

The second is that we as an IT Operations Management (ITOM) industry need to keep pushing hard to build better proactive and intuitive solutions to aggregate instrumentation from all Data Center tools, including more work around VOIP, video streaming, and collaboration so that we can ease this transition. If ITOM solutions become more proactive across the typical Cisco infrastructure that is commonly installed in the Data Center, we can free up some additional time for advanced "emerging technologies" training where existing IT workers can enhance their core skills and re-invigorate their careers. We have to do a much better job of getting our existing IT professionals trained on emerging technologies!
About the Author
David Link is president and CEO of ScienceLogic. He and his partners built a thriving company from the ground up by focusing on delivering "products that just work" to the under served IT operations management marketplace. He has held senior management and corporate officer positions at large public companies.MIT Sloan School of Management.
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