By K.S. Parag, Managing Director, FVC

For years, organizations in the Middle East have struggled to close the sizable gap between the talent needed to help keep businesses growing, and the skills available in the market. While the obvious skills gap affects almost every industry segment, the IT industry particularly has a severe shortage of highly skilled professionals. New and disruptive technologies have flooded the IT landscape over the years, and organizations have readily adopted technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to boost business and individual productivity. However, IT professionals have struggled to keep abreast of the changes and update their skills to meet the growing demand for specific skill sets. The struggle is real for businesses looking for specialised talent.

The state of IT skills today

When I look at the state of the IT skills gaps in the region from a channel perspective, I see significant room for the development of niche technology skills. Skills in the areas of security and networking are currently in strong demand. However, with the rapid uptake of GDPR, Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning it has now become important for IT personnel to possess skills specific to these technologies, as well mobile app development and data science skills.

This skills gap, however, varies across the region, depending on skillset available and specific business needs, and technology adoption. Business leaders have set high business goals and expectations, and Information technology skills plays vital role in full filling the business goals & objectives. While there is an abundance of basic IT skills, advanced skills required to deal with emerging and complex technologies remains scarce.

I strongly believe that channel stakeholders need to be committed to investing in timely training and certification programmes to ensure resources possess the necessary skills to carry out complex implementations or provide expert advice and guidance to customers. However, there are barriers. Overcoming the two major barriers of cost and time availability are crucial to allow partners to be trained and update their skills. Amidst the current skills shortage, it is important to note that the number of implementations can place undue pressure on partners to meet customer demands. As profitability is at risk, partners tend to focus on the task at hand.

The role we play in helping close the skills gap.

More needs to be done in order to tackle the IT skills shortage. Initiatives like providing flexibility for partners to take trainings at their convenience, provide free online courses to update skills, providing incentives to partners who upgrade and maintain their certifications are some ways to encourage partners to invest in training. Small steps will eventually contribute towards minimising the skills gap.

FVC is committed towards intellectual empowerment of our internal staff, partners & customers, with next generation Technology that delivers results for them today. We add value at every stage from Consulting, sales, marketing, channel development, Implementation to support and training. Our value-add complimentary services including Training, Implementation & support is to ensure our customers get right level of services to deploy the best of breed solution and equip their teams with right level of expertise from our consultants & trainers. We help build true partnerships, so clients get the maximum value on their investments. We have endeavoured to be the authorized training centres for our partners so that we percolate the training thrust amongst our partner community across Middle East and Africa.  A key example of our efforts in enabling channel skills is that of Polycom where we have trained hundreds of engineers over the years and that has helped partners secure more business and service their clients with higher customer satisfaction.

We also partner with our vendors to provide our facilities as authorised training centers to help them carry out training and certification programmes for the channel. We are a Barco Clickshare certified training center and the accreditation programme offered at our facility aims to strengthen technology resellers’ relationships with their customers, through offering a more in-depth understanding of the capabilities of enterprise technology systems.

Why training and certification is an important step toward closing the skills gap

Being trained and certified is the crucial step in establishing customer confidence, equipping self for the upcoming assignments & keeping resources up to date on latest technology trends. Customers need to feel confident that their needs are being understood by experts who are industry certified who can understand the product and are able to build, modify or enhance their IT environment and architecture. Investing in training and certifications also demonstrate a partner’s commitment towards growing a vendor/s footprint, and providing customers with specialised product expertise. Partners can also utilise their trainings to upsell and cross-sell solutions. However, Resellers need encouragement and incentives from vendors and distributors to assign staff for relevant training. I believe, it’s also a case of hiring the right people to begin with, and with the current skills scenario, this can be a challenge.

Domains such as GDPR Auditing, GRC, AI, machine learning, IoT, and data science are reshaping the way companies in the region do business. It is no surprise that these tech-based skills and roles will be in high demand. Partners should be prepared with the relevant skills related to these technologies, such as security, networking, business application development, and most of all, services.

Looking forward

Technology is expanding at a fast pace and is a key driver in executing the businesses today, with technology services being in demand like never, it will always be a case of updating skills according to the demands of the day. There will always be a gap between demand and supply of skills in the IT market, but it can be reduced with consistent commitment and efforts from all stakeholders – Vendors, distributors and resellers. I believe that channel stakeholders have realised that hiring, training and retaining resources is key to maintaining they profitability. Once you have the right talent on board, retaining them becomes a challenge, considering the many motivations such as extra remuneration, perks, and growth opportunities offered by competitors. This process begins at the time of hiring resources, when you can determine their commitment towards growing their career within your organization. Providing them with regular and timely training them helps them enhance their skills.

In today’s scenario, highly skilled and capable staff are in high demand, however, your ability to retain them is dependent on the opportunities you provide them for growth, the right incentives and the right motivation.