New research from Skillable reveals that, while tech workers want to learn and organisations are spending thousands of dollars per employee on learning technology, it is not translating into improved on-the-job performance for four out of 10 IT employees.

Inadequate training puts workers at risk of being left behind in the race for tech talent, which is in short supply. It’s also wasteful for employers, which pumped $102-billion into training in 2022 alone.

Skillable data highlights the top skills tech workers need today and tomorrow. Tech workers said IT infrastructure library/ITIL (53%), IT service management/ITSM (45%) and database management (40%) skills are essential for a successful department working under a CIO or CTO.

Tech workers who get these fundamental skills right create a strong foundation to work with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

In addition, tech workers agreed that the top three crucial technology skills they must master to remain competitive are AI trust, risk and security management/AI TRiSM (51%), Composite AI (46%) and Generative AI (44%).

However, these same tech workers point out that current training hasn’t kept pace with the rate of industry change, and it hasn’t adequately prepared them for the future.

Forty percent of tech workers reported that they are frustrated that the learning technologies they use don’t help them do their jobs better.

The same share said that current learning technology doesn’t allow them to demonstrate their skill proficiency, which limits the opportunity for personalisation and makes it difficult to understand their readiness for new opportunities.

More than half (59%) indicated they want to see more content that’s relevant to their role, and more than a third (37%) said they struggle with a lack of training tied to a specific level or expertise.

Lack of effective training is an issue for any organisation, but especially in high-stakes roles in AI development, cybersecurity and data privacy.

Assessing current skill levels and job readiness is important for ensuring ethical use and development of AI, data protection and adhering to data legislation. There is a risk of disengagement with irrelevant training materials, which can also introduce vulnerabilities in compulsory training like cybersecurity and data protection.


Real-world training is key

When asked what would make their learning experience more engaging, 67% said real-world applications – the top answer. Bringing skills into the real world via hands-on experiences through virtual labs is clearly the missing piece of the modern-day learning ecosystem.

“You wouldn’t let someone fly a plane who has only read the airline manual, yet this is how we often approach tech training,” says Sarah Danzl, chief marketing officer at Skillable. “Hands-on training should be required today, as it’s not only the most effective learning modality and only way to truly validate that tech workers can do the required tasks.

“That should make it the most important investment for workers and leaders alike while we all prepare for and advance in the future. The right training also positions companies to be more competitive today and going forward.”

The new research, commissioned by Skillable and conducted by Propeller Insights in November 2023, is based on a survey of more than 1 000 tech workers. Over a third (35%) of survey respondents were tech workers at the manager level; more than a quarter were at the C-level.