Organizations Refocus Commitment to Upskilling, Alternative Career Pathways and Diversity, New CompTIA Report Finds

76% of HR professionals support relaxing or eliminating four-year degree hiring barrier

Today’s release of Workforce and Learning Trends 2021: Accelerating Through the Curve by CompTIA, the nonprofit association for the information technology (IT) industry and workforce, confirms the many challenges and opportunities organizations face in navigating an era of extraordinary transformation.

A recent CompTIA survey of HR professionals finds 67% report placing more emphasis on reskilling and upskilling efforts. For large organizations, the need is even more pressing, with 79% pursuing initiatives to address skills gaps and a tightening labor market for tech talent. Year-to-date U.S. employers posted nearly one million job ads seeking to hire a range of IT infrastructure, software, cybersecurity, data and emerging tech positions.

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Against this backdrop, CompTIA’s Workforce and Learning Trends 2021 presents five key trends shaping the workforce and learning landscape in the year ahead:

  1. Companies renew focus on worker resilience
  2. Business gets more proactive about DEI
  3. Continuous learning is the new personalized learning
  4. Alternative learning and career pathways are extending and branching
  5. AI becomes a strategic partner of human-digital teams

“The global pandemic accelerated efforts to rethink approaches to developing and supporting our workforces,” said Nancy Hammervik, CEO, CompTIA Tech Career Academy. “The dual need to create more resiliency and future-proofing of skills, with the critical need to expand and diversify the pipeline of digital-ready workers, is a resounding mandate for change.”

Seventy-four percent of HR professionals report concern over workplace digital divides. In response, nearly 40% report offering new or expanded broadband and technology stipends to work-from-home (WFH) staff. The majority of HR professionals expect pandemic induced WFH arrangements to remain in place to some degree on a permanent basis.

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Beyond the critical day-to-day role of enabling remote work and virtual business models, technology continues to touch every facet of the workforce in new ways. Approximately one in three HR professionals expect artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled technologies to begin having a significant impact in human resource management. Another 46% expect AI and related smart data and automating technologies to have a moderate impact. The top areas where HR professionals are actively using or exploring AI-enabled tools include competency assessments and hiring process management (71%), employee self-service (ESS) tools (71%) and career pathway modeling (68%).

“Despite some misperceptions and misgivings, AI-enabled technologies and data-driven tools will increasingly play a role in learning and career development,” said Tim Herbert, executive vice president for research and market intelligence at CompTIA. “The quest to move beyond mundane one-size-fits-all approaches with greater personalization and flexibility has the potential to further cultivate a continuous learning mindset for both workers and employers.”

Another accelerating transformation is the degree to which alternative learning and career pathways are extending and branching. A strong majority of HR professionals (three in four) report support for relaxing or eliminating the four-year degree requirement for job candidates. For many positions, the four-year degree prerequisite and other forms of “over-spec’ing” create artificial barriers to expanding the labor pipeline. Forty-four percent of HR professionals acknowledge organizational resistance to change as a source of friction in changing practices around four-year degree requirements, while another 42% acknowledge the “safer choice” mindset.

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With most HR professionals expecting to be in hiring mode over the next 12 months, especially for technology roles (62%) and sales, marketing or customer service roles (55%), the need to consider alternative learning and career pathways is apparent. A net 83% of HR professionals indicate the will consider candidates for IT support and helpdesk positions without a four-year degree, with similar levels of consideration for related positions in data and databases (80%), software or web development (75%) and cybersecurity (73%).

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