The quick pace of technological innovation across industries and countries means increased demand for highly skilled IT professionals. However, this demand is not being met.

“We’re facing significant deficits of skilled workers,” says Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of IT trade association CompTIA (short for the Computing Technology Industry Association). “In 2017, 125,760 tech jobs were added to the U.S. economy, but employers posted job openings for 2.35 million tech occupations.” In a 2017 survey of IT professionals, CompTIA found that 80 percent expect they will need additional training to develop their careers. CompTIA’s goal is to be the starting place for IT talent, so the association is developing “a full offering from training to test prep to certification.”

CompTIA recently made two acquisitions that add to its IT training content offerings: gtslearning, which develops print and online courses and learning materials for CompTIA certifications, and the intellectual property of the training content created and published by Logical Operations, an IT training content developer.

Prior to these acquisitions, CompTIA had a gap in its services for “pioneers,” or people entering the technical workforce either as recent graduates or as professionals transitioning from other careers. “Before these acquisitions,” says Thibodeaux, “we had very little to offer them.” Now, with the content from gtslearning and Logical Operations, CompTIA will help pioneer progress through training and development to ultimately become certified IT professionals.

IT Training Innovations

“We’re continuing to see more experiential and project-based learning, live labs and simulations coming online” says Thibodeaux, “and we’ll be developing our own best-in-class tools.” Virtual instructor-led training (VILT) has also evolved, he adds, and “CompTIA is investing in a state-of-the-art studio to bring our products to this market.”

The most-preferred training methods for IT professionals, according to CompTIA’s 2017 research, are practice tests and assessments (63 percent), labs and simulations (60 percent), and e-learning (55 percent). Similarly, Training Industry research has found that the majority of IT learners believe virtual training labs impact job outcomes and prefer them to traditional IT training modalities. Having an authentic learning environment that simulates the on-the-job experience can improve knowledge and skills transfer after training.

Thibodeaux recommends making sure IT training is mapped directly to the learner’s role – that’s why, for example, CloudTIA is increasingly using performance-based questions based on hands-on simulations in its certification exams. Speaking of which, Thibodeaux says IT certifications are becoming increasingly valuable; in the 2017 survey, almost 75 percent of IT managers rated certifications “as a valuable resource for validating skills and evaluating job candidates.” As a result, CompTIA anticipates having its own exam delivery platform by the end of 2018.

Cybersecurity skills are increasingly important, and CompTIA is launching a new certification this year called CompTIA PenTest+, which will assess “the latest penetration testing and vulnerability assessment and management skills that IT professionals need to run a successful, responsible penetration testing program.” Also on the horizon is an adaptive competency assessment, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable professionals to demonstrate their level of competency for a job role.

As technology continues to evolve, the role of the professionals who manage that technology will also evolve. Certifications, virtual training labs, simulations and assessments – themselves supported by evolving technology – will continue to support and boost IT learning throughout those changes.