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IT skills gap forces CIOs to get creative

Some firms offer training in new skill sets; and some embed IT workers in business departments

April 5, 2012 06:04 AM ET

Computerworld - DALLAS -- It's becoming more and more difficult for CIOs to find workers well-versed in ever-changing technologies like wireless networking, cloud computing, mobile security and big data analytics.

Thus, IT managers are looking for people who have training in multiple disciplines. And if they can't find them or can't afford them, they're implementing cross-training programs for the workers they have.

According to several top IT managers at SNW here this week, CIOs are working hard to break down specialization among their staffs.

David Richter, vice president of Infrastructure Solutions at Kimberly-Clark, said he recently revamped the IT titles in his department, cutting the number of job descriptions from more than 350 to about 40.

"We definitely have a skills gap. I need a broader bench. I need people who have two or three areas of expertise," he said.

"Part of our training and individual development plans ... are focused on training people to make them more competent in their current role, and also for their next role," Richter added.

The additional training both adds to the workers skill sets and lets CIOs better deal with constrained IT budgets by not having to hire more people with specific skills, he said.

Kimberly Clark sees problems in hiring experts in security technology. Richter noted that security is difficult because the technology is constantly changing to adapt ever-changing mobile technologies and persistent threats.

"That's a big issue for us," said Richter, who also cited difficult in finding network, database and video expertise. "We provide video conferencing for the business across the globe," he noted.

Theresa Meadows, CIO of Cook Children's Health Care System, Texas, said security is also a looming concern for the Fort Worth firm because of regulatory pressures to keep patient information safe.

"Healthcare is typically five or six years behind the IT curve," she said. "Our use of cloud is minimal because of perceived security concerns."

Meadows said she is also under pressure to take advantage of big data analytics technology, which can be used to segment medical information so it's more useful to physicians, nurses and medical technicians.

The health care firm's IT staff has doubled over the last three or so years because of its rapid expansion. Cook Children's Health Care System has more than 4.000 employees and operates more than 60 pediatric medical and specialty clinic offices throughout Texas..

Meadows said the IT organization has created a "pod" training program that groups three IT employees with different skills.

Meadows places long-tenured employees, mid-term workers and new hires on a team in order to gain confidence in existing and new skills, she said.



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