We’re in the middle of an industrial revolution. According to the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of children entering primary school this year will grow up to work in job roles that don’t even exist yet.

While the digital transformation of our economy is in full swing, it’s hardly the neatest, most organised process. In a lot of ways, society is still playing catch-up when it comes to providing the skills organisations need to develop and succeed. Sure, you can get the latest technology – but can you find someone who knows how to use it?

The state of the industry

The Cloud Industry Forum recently polled 250 IT and business decision-makers in small, medium and large organisations across the private and public sectors. 55 percent of those surveyed didn’t believe that their organisations had the right digital skills in place, with 35 percent mentioning cloud skills as especially in demand.

In separate research earlier this year, Microsoft surveyed another 250 technical leaders, finding that 38 percent were struggling to hire people with the right cloud skills.

According to the Microsoft report, over 3,500 UK organisations could be negatively affected by a lack of cloud-trained professionals.

Yet another recent survey, this one from Dell EMC, found that only 35 percent of IT managers thought their teams had the necessary skills in-house, with just 14 percent satisfied that their cloud expertise was up to scratch.

The cloud skills gap isn’t going away any time soon

Perhaps worryingly, 48 percent of the organisations surveyed by Microsoft assumed that recruiting cloud pros would become easier over the next few years, even though most evidence points to the opposite. The Hays Global Skills Index indicates that the engineering and technology skills gap increased during 2016 for the fifth year in a row, and this trend is only set to continue.

For its part, the UK Government has recognised the problem, pledging a renewed focus on digital education and apprenticeships, and a greater focus on the digital economy in general. This is all to be expected, with the Government’s own figures reporting that the digital skills gap is costing the economy £63 billion a year. Even so, it’s anyone’s guess how and when the effects of these measures will actually be felt.

Emerging technologies like blockchain and the internet of things are just some of the areas where a cloud skills shortage is being most keenly felt. That’s not to mention upcoming data protection rules such as the GDPR, where in-depth cloud knowledge will be vital to ensuring compliance.

Of course, a silver lining for anyone with highly desired cloud skills is increased demand for their expertise. But is there anything organisations can do to minimise the impact of the cloud skills gap, or even sidestep it altogether?

Which skills pay the bills?

IT roles associated with DevOps, database administration and systems engineering have always been prized, and these continue to be highly desirable. More recently, we’ve seen skills around enterprise-level infrastructure migration and big data become increasingly sought-after, alongside expertise relating to cloud-focused technologies like containerisation and microservices.

With businesses struggling to recruit IT roles across a range of specialised fields, it’s vital to identify which skills are key to the long-term development and success of your organisation. With this in mind, you can prioritise filling the most critical roles, whether that means intensifying recruitment, paying more, or nurturing skills from within your existing team.

Developing cloud skills: not just about recruitment

Obviously, recruitment of new staff is central to developing skills within an organisation, but so is cultivating the expertise already on board. Training up existing staff can also prove far more cost-effective than bringing in new blood.

Encouragingly, many firms seem to recognise this, with 60 percent of those surveyed by Microsoft reporting that they were retraining staff to combat a cloud skills shortfall.

Another less obvious consideration should be creating the right working environment. It can be overlooked, but a work culture that welcomes employees and offers ample room for personal development is key to attracting and retaining the right people. Finally, to get the maximum benefit from your in-house skills mix, you’ll need the right external partners and service providers.

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