Officials from some technology companies find it "extremely hard" to find job candidates and existing workforce members with skills in data science, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning cloud engineering and SQL data programming. The same tech companies call on universities to provide more tech-focused programs that provide mentoring support, develop more curriculum on applied skills and offer site reliability for computer science programs.

"It is extremely hard to find candidates with experience/skills in data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud engineering," said Mark Lipscomb, vice president of global talent for San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe. "In addition, there is a huge demand for Site Reliability Engineers (SREs), also called DevOps Specialists."

CMSWire caught up with Adobe and officials from fellow California-based tech companies Salesforce and Looker on the heels of our report on how universities address reported tech skills shortages

Reports: Tech Skills Few and Far Between

Organizations naturally need a technologically-savvy workforce because of emerging technologies like blockchain, AI, Augmented Reality (AR) and the ever-changing digital customer experience and employee experience landscape. Several industry reports, however, back officials at tech companies who long for the day when incoming job applicants and existing workforce members ace these critical tech skills.

Gartner reported in its 2018 Shifting Skills Survey that 70% of employees haven’t mastered the skills they need for their jobs today, and 80% said they lack both the skills they need both for their current and future roles. HR leaders agree. A study by Wiley Education Services and Future Workplace found 64% of the HR leaders said there is a skills gap in their company, up from 52% in 2018. 

What can organizations do to address the skills gap? Jeremy Walsh, VP of enterprise learning solutions at Wiley Education Services, in a statement called on companies to “build talent versus simply buying talent” in order to address this skills shortage gap. 

Related Article: How Are Universities Responding to the Tech Skills Gap?

Where Are the Skills Shortages?

What exactly are some skills tech companies find employees are lacking? Careers site reports employers find the following roles tough to fill:

  • Data analytics
  • Security
  • Cloud computing 
  • Cybersecurity
  • IT architecture 

“The tech talent gap is larger than any one role,” Monster officials reported. “It’s an overall shortage of people who know how to code, whether they’re doing back-end on mobile apps or developing cloud-computing platforms.”

Companies' Need to Shift 

According to the Future of Jobs Survey 2018 by the World Economic Forum, these are the technologies by proportion of companies likely to adopt them by 2022:

  • User and entity big data analytics: 85%
  • App- and web-enabled market: 75%
  • Internet of things: 75%
  • Machine learning: 73%
  • Cloud computing: 72%
  • Digital trade: 59%
  • Augmented and virtual reality: 58%
  • Encryption: 54%
  • New materials: 52%
  • Wearables electronics: 46%
  • Distributed ledger (blockchain): 45%
  • 3D printing: 41%
  • Autonomous transport: 40%
  • Stationary robots: 37%
  • Quantum computing: 36%
  • Non-humanoid land robots: 33%
  • Biotechnology: 28%
  • Humanoid robots: 23%
  • Aerial and underwater robots: 19%

Keep this in mind: some contend the skills future employees really need are "softer skills such as written and verbal communication competencies, ownership mindsets and cultural fluencies." LinkedIn reported its list of the most in-demand hard and soft skills of 2019 earlier this year.

Related Article: 4 Skills Modern Developers Need

Mentoring for Students at 'Critical Point'

How specifically are some companies taking on the tech skills shortage? Telling education what they want is one way.  Suzana DelliSanti, senior vice president of global recruiting-futureforce at Salesforce, said ideally universities would apply more tech-focused programs that provide mentoring support for second-year students. Specifically, she added, this would help those who "reach that critical point in their college career and are at risk of dropping a major." "We want to get ahead of those students," DelliSanti added, "and provide them the support they need to keep them on course and in the job market."

Curriculum Would Benefit from 'Applied Skills'

Universities would benefit students if they developed more curriculum on applied skills, according to Jennifer Rettig, vice president of recruiting at Looker. For her company in particular, the most helpful applied skill would be in computer language skills and having an understanding of SQL. Looker's entry level roles require knowledge of SQL, a language for databases. 

"This computer language is rarely if at all taught in universities," Rettig said. "We do look for those with a computer science degree, but knowing SQL is just as important, if not more so, when getting a job at Looker. That’s not to say we expect you to be an expert; roles have a ramp-plan built in and you do get a learning buddy, but you do need to take and pass a SQL test to be considered."

Related Article: How MQL and SQL Can Enhance Your Customers' Experiences

Theory Teaching Vs. Practical Applications

Rettig said she recognizes SQL skills can be learned online, but she'd like to see universities consider teaching database languages courses. Many entry-level candidates did not have access to practical computer language classes at their universities, according to Rettig. 

Learning Opportunities

"More often than not, computer science degrees are mostly focused on theory rather than practical applications," she said. "Having an understanding of SQL is a requirement for many of our positions — entry level or not — and offering these computer language courses during college will create a foundation that will open the door to many opportunities.Background knowledge in SQL is required for many of our positions, but we only require the basics."

Building Their Own Skills-Growth Playbook

Of course, tech companies like Salesforce, Adobe and Looker and others aren't sitting still relying fully on educational institutions. Here's a look at what some companies are doing for training relevant skill sets:

Adobe: Intense Machine Learning Training

Adobe provides its technical people with in-depth, 20-week machine learning training program, according to Lipscomb. It also rolls out a version of this training to non-technical people who have an interest in learning more about the topic. 

Adobe's skills training includes on-demand and in-person training on various topics globally and gives employees access to a learning fund composed of education reimbursement (up to $10,000 per year) for academic degrees, top credential programs, advanced specializations and technical certifications, and a professional developmental reimbursement (up to $1,000 per year) for short-term learning opportunities to support career growth and development.

Salesforce: Software Development, Data Training 

Salesforce offers a free learning platform Trailhead, offering custom “trailmixes” (online trainings) to candidates based on the roles for which employees apply. This provides them early access to skill-up on Salesforce, and other key skills related to their role. Employees also have a wealth of career development opportunities from career guides, mentoring, to peer learning networks and more, according to DelliSanti.

Salesforce also reimburses 100% the costs of fees, tuition and books for pre-approved, job-related courses taken at an accredited academic institution (i.e., a university, college, or language school), up to $5,250 each calendar year.

Salesforce's Pathfinder Program is a four-month program focused on training for software development and data management jobs, specifically Salesforce Developer and Salesforce Administrator. 

Looker: Internship Investments

Looker offers a summer intern program helping attendees develop applied communication skills. "Every intern hired is assigned a specific project that they need to complete during their 10-week internship," Rettig said. "During the ninth week, they are required to present their project in front of the company. To ensure they are ready for this, we provide them with presentation training, slide creation support and many practice rounds." 

More than 70% of interns come back for another summer or asfull-time hires. "Ensuring they have this foundation built has been very successful for both their personal growth and to grow our employees," Rettig said. 

Soft Skills Needed

No matter what the technical skills companies require, some workforce skills will be applicable forever. Salesforce, for instance, looks for candidates whose values align with the company's — trust, customer success, innovation and equality, according to DelliSanti. Adobe invests in those with emotional intelligence skills, leadership traits, ability to think creatively and the ability to collaborate and build relationships, Lipscomb said. 

Self awareness is a necessary skill for a recent college graduate, according to Looker's Rettig. "When you say you know something, you need to be able to back it up," she said. "You know what you know, and you know what you don’t. One of our core values at Looker is 'check your ego' and self awareness is major in maintaining this value and our company culture."