UK Cloud Skills Report 2017: 10 key details you need to know


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alexbennettBy Alex Bennett, Firebrand Training

Alex works for Firebrand Training, a Microsoft Gold Learning Partner. He has worked in the IT training and certification industry for the past 3 years. He writes regularly about Windows Server, Microsoft Azure and IT security.

If you think the cloud skills gap is closing, you’re wrong, says Microsoft. Released in March 2017, the UK Cloud Skills Report is a stark warning for businesses nationwide.

The report, which surveyed 250 technical leaders in the UK working within medium and large organisations, suggests businesses are not prepared for the accelerating demand for cloud skills.

However, there’s a silver lining for qualified cloud professionals. As businesses struggle to source talent, the opportunity for pros who can prove their skills is massive.

The UK Cloud Skills Report 2017 is recommended reading for any cloud professional; here are the 10 key details you need to know.

1. Hiring cloud-skilled pros is challenging

The demand for cloud skills is clear: a third of businesses surveyed actively sought to recruit team members with cloud skills within the past year. However, 38% of these businesses said they found it difficult to find and hire professionals with these skills.

According to the study, this could mean over 3,500 organisations in the UK will be hamstrung by a lack of cloud-skilled staff.

Despite the difficulties in hiring, organisations must find the cloud skills needed to progress critical projects. 46% of organisations plan to recruit new professionals with cloud skills over the next 12 months, but given the shortage, many organisations are likely to struggle hiring.

2. …and businesses don’t realise it

48% of respondents to the UK Cloud Skills Report believe it will be easier to recruit professionals with cloud skills in the coming years. However, most data suggests otherwise and finding these skills will not be easy.

According to the Hays Global Skills Index, 2016 marked the fifth consecutive year of an increasingly large UK skills shortage, centred around engineering and specialists technology roles, like cloud.

Even as the number of professionals with cloud skills grows, demand for these skills is outpacing supply. This means businesses will find it increasingly hard to find professionals with the right cloud skills.

And with a smaller pool of talent, companies can expect to pay a premium to recruit people with these in-demand cloud skillsets.

3. Cloud skills are critical for digital transformation

The digital economy already surpasses the size of the oil economy, and the World Economic Forum estimates that it will reach £78 trillion by 2025.

Digital business success stories, like AirBnB and Deliveroo, are commonplace and validate the power of businesses that embrace digital transformation.

And as the UK Cloud Skills Report reveals, 83% believe cloud skills are critical to the digital transformation of their organisation.

Because many revolutionary digital innovations, like the Internet of Things and blockchain, are reliant on cloud technology, it’s no surprise the majority of UK businesses recognise the cloud as crucial to digital transformation.

4. Almost all organisations plan to become more digital

Only 2% of technical leaders surveyed say their business has no plans to become a more digital organisation. This is encouraging news as organisations that fail to invest in digital transformation will be left behind.

These findings reinforce the extent to which British businesses are now embracing digital transformation, but the UK’s technical skills shortage could hinder these efforts

The public sector is struggling to take full advantage of the benefits of digital transformation because of the UK’s technical skills shortage. It’s highly likely this technical skills shortage will also slow digital transformation projects within the private sector.

5. Organisations sidestep cloud skills gap by training existing staff

In response to difficulties in hiring cloud skilled professionals, 60% of technical leaders surveyed instead plan to train existing staff.

Luckily, most large cloud vendors provide industry-standard certifications and training. Microsoft, have launched a number of initiatives designed to make Azure more accessible to IT professionals, including six free Azure MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses).

And with the arrival of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017, this is the ideal time for businesses to take on cloud apprentices.

The Levy isn’t just for new staff, it can also be used to put existing employees on apprenticeships, including the recently launched Microsoft Azure apprenticeships, which include Azure courses and certifications.

To find out more information on the Apprenticeship Levy, including how to use it to solve your cloud skills shortage, take a look at this article.

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6. The cloud skills shortage is a global challenge too

As the report states, “This problem is not just a challenge for the UK, it is a global phenomenon.” For businesses to thrive in a digital, cloud-driven economy, the skills of employees must keep pace with new advances in technology.

In the US manufacturing industry, 2 million jobs could go be left unfilled over the next 10 years because of a lack of people with the right technical skills.

Skills shortages like these pose serious issues for companies that must remain competitive and could damage the long-term economic health of countries around the world.

You can read more about the global implications of the cloud skills shortage in Microsoft’s “A Cloud for Global Good” publication.

7. Cloud certifications will set you apart when finding work

More than a third of respondents to the UK Cloud Skills Report state that certifications are essential when hiring. One thing is clear: cloud-certified professionals will enter the interview room with a healthy advantage over uncertified peers.

Unsure of what certification to aim for? Take a look at this list of top cloud certifications in 2017.

8. Cloud certifications are important when choosing partners

With high expectations placed on suppliers by businesses relying on support for crucial cloud projects, formal cloud certifications go a long way to validating a potential partner.

63% of survey respondents say that formal cloud certifications are important when selecting partners to provide cloud based consulting or services.

9. Cloud certifications can net contractors £300 more per day

In comparison to internal staff, respondents actually placed a higher importance on certifications for suppliers, with 64% believing certifications for suppliers and contractors to be important.

When outsourcing for crucial cloud projects, 48% of technical leaders say they would expect to pay more for consultants with relevant cloud certifications. In many cases this means an extra £300 more per day.

10. Gender imbalance remains a problem

The gender mix amongst technical IT staff is 20% female to 80% male. Only 21% of respondents said the female mix in their organisation was 40% or greater.

Beyond the social implications of this imbalance, it’s also holding UK businesses back. As Cindy Rose, Microsoft’s UK Chief Executive Officer notes, teams with a more equally balanced gender mix found they were more likely to adhere to project schedules, have lower project costs and achieve higher performance ratings.

Invest in the future

The UK Cloud Skills Report is a warning to all UK businesses – invest in cloud or face the consequences. For a more detailed look, here’s the full UK Cloud Skills Report.

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