IT Skills Gap Forces CIOs to Get Creative

Employers are offering innovative training programs to help IT staffers master the skills they need in today's evolving market.

Finding IT workers who are well versed in ever-changing technologies like wireless networking, cloud computing, mobile security and big data analytics is becoming increasingly difficult for CIOs.

To make up for the lack of expertise in such areas, IT managers are looking for job seekers trained in multiple disciplines, and they're implementing cross-training programs for the workers they have.

At Computerworld's SNW Spring 2012 conference in Dallas earlier this month, several IT executives described steps they're taking to hire multiskilled workers and to break down silos of specialization within IT's ranks.

"I need people who have two or three areas of expertise," said David Richter, vice president of infrastructure solutions at Kimberly-Clark. "I need a broader bench. [We] are focused on training people to make them more competent in their current role -- and their next role."

The Irving, Texas-based paper products maker cross-trains IT staffers by rotating people into new roles for six-month periods, Richter said. Kimberly-Clark has also cut the number of IT job descriptions from more than 350 to about 40, many of which require multiple skills, he added.

At Cook Children's Health Care System in Fort Worth, Texas, the IT staff has doubled over the past three years or so, but CIO Theresa Meadows said she still needs to expand employees' skill sets, particularly in the areas of security and analytics. She noted that the healthcare provider must comply with ever-changing regulations enacted to ensure the security of patient information, and it's under pressure to embrace big data analytics tools that can parse medical information so it's more useful to physicians, nurses and medical technicians.

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