Mind the gap: Does cloud widen the digital skills divide?

How will cloud change the job you do and the skills you need? Or will things simply continue as they are now?

However, others believe the appetite for either existing or future candidates to fill those supposedly vacant positions is definitely there. Two-thirds of current IT workers plan to gain the skills they believe will help them gain a role in the cloud era, according to a recent survey by IT recruitment website CWjobs.co.uk.

"Cloud computing is not a new technology, but it is still continuing to evolve and adapt as more business discover its benefit for business operations," says Richard Nott, website director at CWjobs.co.uk.

"Cloud is having a positive impact on the IT job market and the majority of professionals think there will be more jobs requiring cloud computing skills in the future. It's therefore vital that the industry works to promote opportunities for training and further development, necessary to ensure Britain has a workforce equipped with the skills to fulfil vacancies."

With any new technology there is a certain amount of re-skilling and education required. Cloud is no exception. However, as many experts agree, it will perhaps be some of the so-called softer skills that will be most in demand as we approach a cloud-centric future.

"In the future, workers will need ablend of business and IT skills. This will be key for anyone who wants a long term career in the industry," says Carol Balkcom, director of product management at CompTIA, which recently released cloud-specific certification guidelines.

"I also think it is incumbent of academia to design curriculums in the areas we are discussing. Students need to be challenged but they also need to be prepared in a way that allows them to gain employment."

In terms of the office of the future, Balkcom a virtual worker herself believes the core theme remains the same as ever. "As someone who has moved from full-time office based work to full time work in my home office, I can attest to the fact that project management and time management are two skills that are and will become extremely important. Regardless of what industry you are in IT or otherwise," she says.

"I also feel strongly that the skills you will need in any job are people who know how to write well and people who know how to research."

In terms of how current workers can remain relevant in this new world, SNIA's McDonald adds: "For decision makers, it will be the recognition that their IT needs to do less traditional IT and act more like a service provider to their business [that changes things]. Decision makers now need to hire those who can turn IT into a service provider.

"We need to hire those that can demonstrate a capability for learning, and giving them comprehensive and practical training. As IT workers, we need to be prepared for lifelong learning, and not assume that technology is a trade we learn in our late teens and early twenties, to be practiced for the rest of our working lives. Industry organisations like SNIA can help IT workers by providing up-to-date recognised training and certification in fast-changing technology areas.

"Whatever the level of training, the most desirable IT worker skill will be the ability to obtain new skills quickly."

The cloud for those working in this industry represents as much of an opportunity as a threat. Yes, jobs will be removed from certain areas but they will be replaced by other jobs elsewhere. The balance will simply shift.

Exactly where you will sit on the cloud scales of the future though is completely down to you.

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