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Regional IT skills gap set to widen rapidly

Technology worker shortfall slowing third-platform adoption, warns Condo Protego

Regional IT skills gap set to widen rapidly
Calthorpe: Manpower is not progressing at the same speed as technological development.

Increasing demand for IT professionals in the Middle East amid a dearth of regional talent is stifling adoption of emerging technologies, according to data storage and security specialist Condo Protego, which cited International Data Corporation (IDC) figures.

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"Manpower is not progressing at the same speed as technological development, and this is due to a number of challenges, including education and interest," said Andrew Calthorpe, CEO, Condo Protego.

"As a result, local organisations are finding difficulty in recruiting IT professionals with the technical knowledge and skillset required to fulfil their job requirements... In order to ensure a sustainable recruitment model, there is a critical need for home-grown IT professionals. This should start from the grassroots, from motivating students to pursue the profession as a career, to ensuring an adequate educational infrastructure is in place."

Condo Protego cited a 2013 report by IDC, which showed that emerging networking technology skills, such as those required for cloud computing, mobility, and virtualisation, represented 38.4% of the total networking skills gap in 2012, and forecast this proportion would grow to 46.3% by 2016.

In the networking technologies sub-category, IDC calculated a 2012 shortage of around 18,421 full time equivalents (FTEs), and projected the shortfall would increase to 60,144 in 2016. Condo Protego believes that as these technologies ramp up and gain a strong foothold within organisations across the region, demand for associated skillsets will result in the gap widening at a compound annual growth rate of 34.4% between 2012 and 2016.

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IDC's report also reflected a high demand for IT security skills. When asked what new or extra skills would be required in the next two years, 69.3% of respondents indicated they would require more security skills.

"Security is of the utmost importance in the region given the recently reported threats and security breaches," said Calthorpe. "Even if companies continue to hire expatriate workers, the transient work environment in the UAE will continue to make recruitment a challenge... We need a stable workforce that is here to stay, and that is why local talent is a must. IT is constantly evolving, making it an exciting and challenging field to work in. But for youngsters to pursue it as a career, they first need to understand their options."

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A lack of available skills around third-platform technologies, such as mobility, analytics, cloud, and social media, as well as enabling technologies, such as security and virtualisation, will place substantial pressure on IT providers and end-user organisations, Condo Protego warned. Much of the skillset is expected to continue to come from expatriates as the availability of local information and communications technology workers "will remain relatively limited", the company said.

In the UAE, IDC said the gap can largely be attributed to a limited skilled workforce.

"Some of the key reasons behind the skills gap are the smaller outflow of Emirati graduates from universities in the UAE, less interest among Emirati nationals to pursue higher/advanced IT education, and the lack of research, development, and innovation in the field," said Saurabh Verma, programme manager, IT Services, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, IDC.

"Taking necessary steps to attract more students to pursue an IT education and career will be pivotal to meeting this growing demand... In addition, strengthening the syllabus and generating awareness about careers in IT at school level will further entice students to pursue advanced IT courses, which in turn will help bridge this gap in the long term."

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Condo Protego also highlighted a 2012 IDC White Paper sponsored by Microsoft Corp that predicted global demand for "cloud-ready" IT workers to grow by 26% annually until 2015, with as many as 7m cloud-related jobs available worldwide.  According to the study, IT hiring managers report that the biggest reason they failed to fill 1.7m open cloud-related positions in 2012 was because job seekers lacked the training and certification needed to work in a cloud-enabled world.

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