Get ready for the looming IoT skills shortage

In Canada, we’re seeing an uptick in IoT-related job requests, but staffing and expertise continue to be a barrier to development. To deal with this looming skills shortage, one industry watcher recommends strategies to help IT staff get on board with the Internet of Things.

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They say that in the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king. But in the coming age of the Internet of Things (IoT), those with cross-platform integration, network security and database programming skills will rule the day.

While organizations of all shapes and sizes are expressing interest in pursuing more IoT projects, many are struggling to find the necessary talent to bring those ideas to life.

By the year 2020, the number of connected devices is expected to reach 50 billion, according to a study by Cisco, up from 25 billion in 2015. In spite of the predicted explosion of connected devices, however, 75 per cent of IoT projects through 2018 will take twice as long as planned because of insufficient staffing, according to a study by Gartner.

In Canada, the freelance marketplace UpWork has been watching the uptick in IoT-related job requests. Between October 2014 and December 2015, the number of Canadian freelance jobs posted to the site for MySQL programming grew by 233 per cent, electrical engineering assignments increased 163 per cent, AutoCAD went up by 143 per cent, Internet security postings shot up 90 per cent and iPhone app development postings grew 58 per cent.

“The most significant barrier [to IoT development] is staffing and expertise,” said Ryan Johnson, director of categories at UpWork. “Companies that want to take advantage of IoT [are] realizing they just don’t have the requisite skill sets in-house to support their IoT growth initiatives. That’s where we see a lot of growth gravitating toward our platform and the hiring of freelancers to fill these skill gaps.”

One of the primary areas of concern for organizations — and thus one of the primary skills requirements — is IoT security, he said.

“One of the big things to do with IoT is the need to secure and capture and store massive amounts of data, so anything related to cloud storage information security and so on is growing a lot,” he said. “Specifically in Canada we see tremendous growth in MySQL and database-related programming to store and normalize information.”

To prepare for this looming IoT revolution and the potential skills shortage, Johnson recommends a number of strategies for IT staff.

“Definitely focus on the technical skills, especially things like network security and analytics,” he said, suggesting online courses as a good place to start. “Another thing they can do to develop skills is to do their own personal projects on the side to pick up new skills. And of course there a number of industry conferences they can attend to meet others in the profession and learn new skills.”

Just as network security has become equally vital for big tech firms as major grocery chains, IoT development has the potential to reach a huge array of traditionally non-technical industries. So, it’s never too early to get a leg up on the most in-demand skills of the near future.

“They’re going to have a lot of leverage in companies. It’s a great place to be, just continue to focus on growing your skills and learn as much as you can, especially for things that go across platforms,” said Johnson. “If you’re not familiar with integrating things like mobile devices or other pieces of hardware, take the opportunity to learn those skills, because they will be tremendously valuable.”

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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