ICYMI: The Business Need for Reskilling

May 13, 2022 7:00 AM | Colin Hahn (Administrator)

For our first in person event of the year, SEWI ATD partnered with Milwaukee Tech Hub for a panel discussion on the Business Need for Reskilling on April 22, 2022.

Laura Schmidt, Chief Talent Development Officer of the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition, moderated the discussion with Sarah Dollhausen-Clark, Lead Program Manager in the Office of the CIO/Technology Strategy and Transformation at Northwestern Mutual, Amanda Saenz, IT Delivery Manager at West Bend Mutual and Cynthia Sternard, Director of Technology Advancement & Outreach at Associated Bank providing insights. 

Laura started the discussion with some key employment statistics on the tech field across Southeast WI region:

  • 1.5% unemployment in tech – not a large pool of available workers
  • 67% of tech works come to the field from an occupation different than tech
  • 50% of workers respond to survey that they are not acquiring digital skills as fast as necessary to perform their job
  • 30% job opening include requirement that applicant has experience in emerging tech
  • There is 3x supply vs. demand of college grads from disciplines aligned to CompTIA tech occupations than there are entry level jobs for them. 
  • Supply and demand gap for tech talent is also prevalent in occupations with adjacent skills which makes up/reskilling more challenging. 
  • As a result, employers who are depending solely on traditional sources for tech talent and/or attraction alone are hitting significant barriers.  The panelists focused on overcoming these barriers.

The discussion then moved to the experiences and challenges of each panelist.  The discussion covered some key areas.

Technology skill development and retention

  • Tech skills are constantly evolving.  Workers need to learn deeply quickly. 
  • Firms can use tech skill development content from outside providers such as Pluralsight, but there is a need to make the learning sticky.  That process has to be developed internally.
  • How to allow/create time for learning?  Build learning time into the project timeline for an agile project.  Make learning part of the development plan, workers are rewarded for improving their skills.  They need to know why it is important and that their efforts are valued.
  • Online learning programs without on site mentorship are rarely effective.  Talent development is a team effort. 
  • Include development of employees into responsibility of manager. 
  • Build reskilling into the culture of the organization.

Creating learning paths

  • The amount of content is vast and can be overwhelming. 
  • Need to create learning paths so workers learn the skills they need.  Who creates the learning path and how are the skills measured? 
  • Team creates playlists of content pulled from variety of sources.  Who curates the content, ensures it remains relevant?
  • Create a baseline set of knowledge required to perform the job.

Non-traditional pipeline of talent

  • Due to great need for talent firms are having to source talent from non-traditional pipelines.  Vital business need to ensure that AI that is developed is ethical and accurate. 
  • Need to hire problem solvers who are willing to learn and seek out new information.
  • Once hired, how does a firm best incorporate the new hires into the team. 
  • Provide access to Employee Resource Groups to provide community.  If too small to have an ERG, consider regional connections like FUEL MKE, etc.
  • Frequent pulse check surveys to gain employee feedback on a variety of topics.  Can be useful in tracking employee’s views.

Talent Brand

  • Need for rebranding for those firms that are not “traditionally” seen as tech companies
  • Need to authentically show up in the places and spaces where those you seek to engage with are.  There is a hidden job market that is not currently accessible to those historically excluded from the tech workforce.
  • True inclusion requires an intentional change in corporate culture that can not reside with an individual leader or group but is pervasive across the organization.

Mentoring/Coaching

  • Create opportunities for employees to develop soft skills as well as leadership opportunities outside of the number of direct reports an employee has.
  • Measure/evaluate workers performance not solely on individual performance but also on their ability to collaborate and develop co-workers.
  • Mentors need time in their work day as well.  They also need training in order to be culturally sensitive to ensure an inclusive work culture.

Talent Development as a partner

  • Creative new programs, such as technology apprenticeships need infrastructure and support from both functional and L&D areas of the business.
  • We need to think about development of people holistically.
  • Technology programs also need dual career paths that allow for non-managerial opportunities for advancement.

Panelists Examples

  • Organizational restructuring in Technology where they now have one Manager of People focused on personal & career development and one who serves as the Manager of Projects.
  • Another discussed hiring into talent pools rather than specific job descriptions to allow maximum flexibility.
  • The investment of time necessary before seeing results – six months of slow progress in preparing workers has now been reached a positive tipping point.

Thank you to all who ventured out on a rainy Friday morning in April!

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Heather L. Dyer, CAE

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