We are in the midst of an exciting technology transformation – digitization. Digitization will enable countries to maintain global competitiveness, increase GDP, foster innovation, and create new jobs. It’s predicted there will be over 50 billion connected things by 2020.

In order for countries to embrace the opportunities this digital transformation can bring, they need people with the right the technology skills. However, as the technology landscape is changing so rapidly, new and more complex skills will be needed for current and future jobs. These include both technical and non-technical skills, such as:

  • Network management
  • Digital security and privacy
  • Analytics
  • Application development
  • Device management
  • Problem solving
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Business knowledge

(Gartner, 2015)

Employers worldwide report having difficulty filling jobs, up from 26 percent in 2014 to 38 percent in 2015, and the gap between supply and demand for technical skills remains an issue for all countries. A new study from IDC supported by Cisco shows that, when it comes to the skills needed for digitization, many countries are not ready. Latin America faces a shortage of over 400,000 full time equivalents (FTES) now and through 2019. The gap for essential networking skills, which includes security, is 30.8 percent in 2016. This is alarming because security plays a critical role for companies, and 86 percent of those surveyed report having a strategy for cybersecurity. In addition, for emerging technologies such as cloud and data center, the skills gap is even higher at 43.3 percent. This means that about one third of jobs involving these emerging technologies could go unfilled.

Seven hundred and sixty employers from 10 countries in Latin America were interviewed for this study, and they say skills like teamwork, entrepreneurship, communication, problem solving, English language proficiency, and creativity, in addition to technical skills, are critical. Over 62 percent of employers say they have difficulty hiring, and finding the right skill combinations is the primary obstacle. Quality of candidates and lack of English language proficiency were most cited as secondary causes.

This is not just a problem in Latin America, but worldwide. The European Commission estimates that 90 percent of all jobs in 2020 in a variety of industries will require digital skills.

And while digitization can accelerate and differentiate a country’s ability to progress, lack of adequate digital skills can limit its potential to digitize and grow economically. In order to reap the potential rewards of digital transformation, the world will need millions of people to fill information and communications technology jobs in every country, and in almost every field.

So what can we do about this gap between supply and demand? Companies like Cisco, as well as governments, educational institutions, and other organizations, all have a role to play if we are to succeed. We must work together to develop regional expertise and capacity that enables all people – regardless of socio-economic background or gender – to master, succeed, and lead in the digitized economy.

Cisco has been building human capacity in Latin America, the Caribbean, and around the world by with the Cisco Networking Academy – an IT skills and career building development program for learning institutions and individuals worldwide. Via programs like the Cisco Networking Academy, we can work together to develop the critical technical skills required for digitization. Cisco Networking Academy partners with 9,500 learning institutions worldwide to deliver technical training and problem-solving experiences to individuals studying networking, security, and IoT technologies.

Since 1998, the Networking Academy has prepared more than 6 million students globally, 1 million of those students in Latin America and the Caribbean, from every socioeconomic background, for IT careers – helping to cultivate an ecosystem that could open doors to innovation and progress while growing inclusive, prosperous economies.

For a copy of the recent IDC skills gap white paper, click here.

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Tae Yoo

No Longer with Cisco