Many of the roles that exist in enterprise information technology (IT) today didn’t exist a few years ago. Roles like data scientist, machine learning architect and artificial intelligence (AI) developer are in their infancy. With the advent of new roles like these ones, many organizations are struggling to find talent to fill such critical positions.

Given the shortage of technology professionals with modern skill sets, the most efficient and cost-effective option for ensuring the IT organization has skilled professionals is often to reskill and upskill current team members. Unfortunately, most of the technology and developer training available today focuses on specific technologies instead of the variety of tools needed for today’s roles. It’s time to think deeper about role-based training for technology and development professionals.

What Is Role-based Training?

Role-based training is different from many other learning programs because instead of focusing on one technology, it focuses on understanding specific job roles and acquiring both the technical and the soft skills needed to excel in them.

Let’s take, for example, the data scientist role. Data scientists are in high demand, and there aren’t enough skilled professionals to go around. To make matters worse, if you are lucky enough to find a data scientist, you may not be able to afford him or her. According to the University of California, Riverside, in 2018, the global demand for data scientists was projected to exceed supply by more than 50% . As a result, 63% of the companies surveyed were providing formal or on-the-job-training in house.

One of the first steps toward reskilling and upskilling professionals to develop them into data scientists is understanding who in the organization is best suited to take on such a role. Employees with competencies in statistics and math, as well as problem-solving skills and logical mindsets, are likely solid candidates. Accuracy and attention to detail are also important, along with written and verbal communication skills. Organizational knowledge, familiarity with SQL (structured query language) and the ability to analyze data with tools like spreadsheets is crucial, too. (Actually wanting to be a data scientist doesn’t hurt, either.)

The next step in this process is adequately preparing candidates to become data scientists. They must first learn to become a data analyst, then a data wrangler and then a data operations specialist. Once a candidate possesses and can demonstrate the fundamental skills from these first three roles, they can tackle the capstone training they need to become a data scientist.

Don’t Forget Soft Skills Training, Too

While candidates pursue the technical knowledge required for each role, they must not neglect soft skills. For the path from a data analyst to a data scientist, a candidate will need skills such as a growth mindset, active listening, and strategic thinking and design thinking. They must also possess a general business acumen, understand business process improvement and posit sound conclusions. Knowledge of working in an agile or lean environment is also crucial, as well as the ability to capture the attention of senior executives.

Implementing Role-based Training

Creating a robust curriculum that addresses all the skills required for a data scientist or other new role is not easy. Training content must cover the right skills in the right order, and all content must work together to achieve role-based learning objectives.

There are several ways to tackle role-based training for IT, tech and developer roles, including:

  • Building a role-based learning program.
  • Holding in-person bootcamps.
  • Partnering with higher education institutions.
  • Offering web-based training.

Every option is different, with varying price points and levels of effort required to achieve organizational goals. Finding the best fit depends on the organization’s specific needs and available resources.

Once you’ve identified the option that’s best for your organization, there are a series of steps to take to develop role-based training for in-demand roles. First, work with your IT, technology and developer teams to create two lists of job roles: one list of the roles they are filling now and one list of the roles they will need to fill in the future. Working together, determine which current staff may be well-suited to upskill and reskill for those roles.

Then, it’s time to talk with vendors that offer robust role-based training solutions. Learn all you can about off-the-shelf learning paths, including which types of content the programs use, who developed the programs, how they selected the content, etc. Further, find out if customization is available to align with your organization’s unique needs — can they change or add content as your needs evolve?

When you’ve found what appears to be a good training solution for the roles you need, take it out for a test drive. Use evaluation or pilot periods, and ask people already in the roles, along with some of the candidates being considered for them, to participate to make sure the program addresses everyone’s needs.

Role-based training is now an important part of the technology and developer training landscape. As the shortage of qualified workers worsens, most organizations’ only option will be to reskill and upskill existing staff to fill in-demand roles. The only way to address role-based training needs in an organization is to begin developing an action plan today.

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