Solving the IoT talent issue

Bruce Leith

Blog by: Bruce Leith - 19 / Sep / 2018

IoT investment worldwide will be worth more than $880 billion by 2022 – and yet there is a major lack of qualified talent to make it happen. That’s the lead message from this Cisco white paper– it should give plenty of organisations cause to sit up and take notice.

What exactly are IoT skills? This is perhaps the first problem; the IoT is such a huge and diverse area of technology that there is no single skillset that can be neatly wrapped up in a qualification or certificate. Rather, driving IoT success depends on having access to a range of different skillsets, including big data capabilities, embedded software development, embedded electronics and cybersecurity. This is before we even get onto the sector-specific skills required in particular industries; creating an effective IIoT infrastructure in a factory floor, for example, requires different capabilities to the connected healthcare sector, and so on.

What should be apparent, however, is that most of these skills are not unique to the IoT itself. There is no such thing as an ‘IoT engineer’. Rather, there are individuals with more general skills such as software development or data analytics which have been refined and specialised in the IoT area.

Why the gap?

Why is there a shortage of IoT talent globally?

Perhaps the most obvious starting point is that the IoT is still a relatively new innovation. Many university and college courses have not yet responded and incorporated specialist IoT training into their broader offerings, and many organisations have not yet created clear training and development paths with the IoT in mind. 

Then there’s the structure of the IoT, if such a thing can be said to exist. The IoT is a complex ecosystem of multiple technologies, protocols and collaborators, which means that many organisations still take a very disparate approach to managing it. Trained individuals with a more overarching expertise are not yet in massive demand.

There’s also the issue of how much IoT is seen as integral to overall business strategy. In organisations where IoT is seen as crucial to overall business development, it is far more common to find staff who are being specifically trained in IoT-related skills, whereas in others, the IoT may be viewed as a tacked on extra – meaning that IoT staff are viewed as tacked on extras too.

Mind the gap

How can organisations solve the talent issue?

Fundamentally, organisations seeking to plug the IoT talent gap and introduce those skills within their own workforce have two main choices. They can recruit from the outside, or they can train from within.

However, the really savvy approach is to combine the two. Be as open-minded as possible about the kinds of people who join your organisation – and creating a structured yet agile IoT development path for employees once they have started. In this way, you will end up casting the widest possible net and also remaining responsive and alive to the ever-evolving skills required in the IoT industry.

Many established IoT professionals transitioned there from roles in software engineering and embedded engineering positions, so it is worth seeking out talent in those areas which can be directed more precisely towards the IoT. On the big data analytics side, don’t limit yourself to people with a technical or engineering background; hard sciences, maths and even social sciences graduates may have the requisite skills and the analytical approach.

No single organisation can plug the IoT talent gap, but by understanding the cultural and technical factors that are fuelling it, as well as the importance of maintaining and enhancing specialist IoT skills once staff have joined the organisation, your business can buck the trend.


Topics: recruitment, IoT, IIoT, talent

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