It’s a new year — and a new decade. The global economy is changing, we’re seeing political uncertainty around the world, and technologies are continuously adapting and innovating. If your organization is responding by being more cautious in its spending and more insistent on seeing a return on its training investment, you’re not alone. But it’s more critical than ever before to have a competent technical workforce that continuously upskills itself. To ensure your information technology (IT) team is prepared for whatever lies ahead, consider these five trends in planning your IT training strategy (and budget) for 2020:

1. Top IT Skills

Ask any of your learners, and they will tell you that the skills needed to be successful in the IT field are changing. Companies this year are focusing on cloud, mobile, social, and big data and analytics technologies, so be sure your teams have well-developed skills in areas such as:

  • The cloud, including containerization and multi-cloud architectures.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and machine learning.
  • Cybersecurity.
  • Big data, data management and analytics.
  • “Everything-as-a-Service.”

With U.S. unemployment at an all-time low, it’s difficult to find IT professionals who have these skills. And when those critical IT roles stay open, your business suffers. Training is the best way for any organization to stay ahead of the IT skills gap. The costs of even the most expensive training modalities, like off-site, instructor-led training, pale in comparison to the costs of lacking in the technological innovation that helps you stay competitive with the rest of your industry.

2. Shifting IT Budgets

IT leaders have been concerned about “shadow IT” for several years now: Employees are increasingly using their personal devices for work purposes, and business unit leaders often purchase software for their teams without going through the IT department. This approach creates not only security risks but also inefficiencies and complexities through unnecessary redundancies.

However, in 2019, organizations started a cease-fire in the war against shadow IT, and “business-managed” IT budgets and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies became more popular. BYOD practices can save organizations $350 per year, per employee, and save employees 58 minutes per day, improving productivity by 34%.

The implication for IT training is twofold. First, employees may increasingly want to use their personal devices for mobile learning. Second, individual contributors and managers require training to understand the technologies they increasingly must not only use but also purchase themselves.

3. 5G: A Journey Into the Unknown

5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology, and more and more enterprises are using it to increase the number of connected devices and improve networking. This technology will improve emergency services, government and medical facilities, smart cities, and personal devices. However, because it’s so new, few engineers understand its potential, much less how to work with it effectively. Upskilling your IT teams will enable your business to work more efficiently and see innovations in such areas as the internet of things, much of which requires 5G to function.

4. The Growing Gig Economy

The growing popularity of gig work (contract or freelance work) is shifting the way businesses provide employment and manage and train their workforce. The gig workforce creates budget efficiencies for employers and can give employees more flexible schedules, often with greater work-life balance. In technical fields, gig workers often augment in-house capabilities during busy seasons or for specific, demanding projects.

Gig workers often find their own ongoing learning, of course, but organizations are increasingly offering training opportunities to both their contractors and full-time employees. While employers may want to seek IT contractors with specific certifications, depending on their needs, it may also be smart to provide training as well, whether it’s in the form of access to an online library or even a seat in an instructor-led course.

5. The Training Investment Trend

In 2018, Gartner research predicted that by 2020, 75% of organizations would “experience visible business disruptions due to I&O [infrastructure and operations] skills gaps.” The researchers recommended that IT and training leaders start “developing these skills with the talent they already” have in house.

Whether this precise statistic has come to pass is uncertain. What is certain is that technology will continue to advance at a rate unprecedented in human history. Global spending on training has grown in recent years, and for IT training in particular, it will likely continue to increase in 2020. As more and more organizations realize that success requires creativity, innovation and up-to-date tech skills, their investment in training will only grow.

No matter what happens with the economy or politics in 2020, we’re sure to see new and exciting things on the technology front. With the right training, your organization can be ready for whatever happens in the market and embrace the technological innovations that will give you a competitive edge. IT training on topics from data science and cloud computing to cybersecurity and machine learning will keep your IT teams and your company racing ahead into the future.