Pluralsight Study Finds the Biggest Technical Skills Gaps are in Cybersecurity, Cloud, and Software Development

Executives and technologists around the world agree to focus on critical fundamentals when it comes to the top technical upskilling needs

Pluralsight, the technology workforce development company, released its 2024 Technical Skills Report. This annual survey asked 1,400 executives and IT professionals* how organizations can leverage technology to drive business value in a world where budgets and headcount are decreasing and technology is evolving at a rapid pace. The findings highlight the top areas for upskilling and learning opportunities, the biggest benefits of continuous learning, and the greatest impediments to adopting upskilling programs.

Executives & IT Professionals Agree: Foundational Technology Skills Are the Most Critical Need 
The results were unanimous across markets and career levels: cybersecurity, cloud, and software development, which are considered the most imperative tech skills to learn, are the top areas where skills gaps persist. Cybersecurity and cloud have been named the two largest skill gaps since 2021.

This sends a clear message: before prioritizing skills for tech trends, an organization needs solid foundational skills in security, cloud, and software development. Notable findings include:

  • Sixty-five percent of respondents said cybersecurity skills were lacking most within their organizations, followed by cloud (52%) and software development (40%).
  • Cybersecurity skills were cited as the most important to learn in the next year (63%), followed by cloud (47%), and software development (45%).

Despite the hype in your news feed, Pluralsight’s report found that AI/ML skills gaps are the lowest priority to address, but demand is growing. Compared to last year, 11% more technologists are interested in building AI/ML skills.

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“While we know AI/ML skills are increasingly critical, we’ve also found that organizations have other, more immediate upskilling priorities,” said Aaron Rosenmund, Pluralsight’s Senior Director of Security & GenAI Skills. “Considering that the average cost of a data breach is $4.45 million and that successful cyber-attacks are continuing to exponentially increase year-over-year, it becomes clear why cybersecurity skills are top of mind for organizations.”

Hiring vs. Upskilling: a Short-Term Solution vs. a Long-Term Investment 
When a skills gap is identified, organizations have two options: hire new talent or upskill current employees. Hiring is often regarded as a quick way to find top talent with the right skills, but the findings say otherwise. Sixty-six percent of organizations say hiring takes longer or the same amount of time as upskilling existing talent.

Upskilling’s benefits come to life in the numbers. The average cost of hiring new tech talent in the US is more than $23,000 and takes 10 weeks. According to respondents, more than half of organizations (57%) spend only $5,000 per employee on upskilling.

“This year’s report highlights the financial benefits of upskilling current workforces and how continuous learning boosts the confidence of employees and empowers them to thrive in their roles as the technology landscape continues to shift,” said Will Clive, Pluralsight’s Chief People Officer. “It’s clear that investing in tailored learning paths to assess and address specific knowledge gaps can lead to significant business outcomes.”

A Culture of Learning Drives Upskilling’s Benefits
The power of upskilling is undeniable but putting it into practice with employees is the real challenge. The top reason organizations struggle to implement successful upskilling programs has not changed in the last three years of this study: lack of time.

Despite clear barriers, organizations can unlock upskilling engagement with a culture of continuous learning. The first step is to identify existing skills in order to see the gaps. Leaders need to stay engaged in this process: only 33% of executives completely understand the skills their IT teams need and 68% of technologists say leadership at their organization is not aware of a tech skills gap.

When it comes to discovering what drives employees to upskill, a new #1 motivation to participate emerged this year: stronger job security and improved confidence. This is yet another proof point in upskilling contributing to higher employee engagement that can drive performance and innovation.

With 78% of organizations abandoning projects partway through because of not having enough employees with the right tech skills, there is no time to waste in closing the gap.

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