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How to create effective training for all

11th Mar 2013
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Matt Pierce examines how digital content can be used to help plug the ICT skills gap.

The European Commission has warned the ICT sector in Europe is facing a significant skills shortage, with up to 700,000 jobs going unfilled. The number of digital jobs is growing by 3% each year, yet the number of new ICT graduates and other skilled ICT workers cannot fill these new positions. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes warned ICT companies operating in Europe need to either recruit appropriately skilled personnel or move their operations to where skilled workers are available.

The UK is looking to develop its skills in digital expertise by pushing through computer science-focused subjects as part of a revised national curriculum. By enhancing digital skills and computer science teaching, the UK can ensure its future workforce is armed with the skills needed for the next generation of business Kroes envisages in the near future.

New talent, new challenges

Future-gazing businesses will recognise there may be a skills gap between their current young workers and future employees. As those currently in junior positions gain business knowledge and rise up the ranks, they will be employing the pupils currently undertaking the revised curriculum. In this not too distant future, organisations may see a gap emerging between the mid- and upper-level management and the level of relevant business skills their junior hires possess.

In short, the ICT skills gap that exists now could become an even more serious issue in future as those with gaps in their knowledge become business leaders, directors and executives. Implementing a comprehensive business skills training programme will enable organisations to put a strategy in place now to narrow the gaps that could occur.

Identifying the gap fillers

The younger generation of workers are sometimes referred to as 'digital natives' – they have grown up with technology and it is part of their daily lives. They can intuitively use new technologies and are keen to learn new digital skills. However, being enthusiastic and able to use technology does not necessarily mean they have the ICT skills required to fill the gap.

While some may be content to simply use technology, there are many individuals in the current workforce who both embrace new technology and want to educate themselves. As a resource, these individuals can be invaluable to an organisation. If there is a budding social media or technology evangelist willing to share their knowledge with peers, it makes sense for a business to tap into their skills.

Digital learning resources

One of the main difficulties in ICT training is it’s often hard to explain how to use a technology outside of a formal, instructor-led session. Screencasting can offer a solution, capturing pockets of knowledge easily so it can be shared throughout an organisation without being cost or labour intensive. Screencasts, which are sometimes referred to as screen recordings or screen captures, are video recordings of activity that takes place on a computer screen. The recordings can be enhanced with the addition of a webcam recording of the presenter, or simply their voice narrating video content as an audio track.

Recordings can then be used as short tutorial videos that cover a wide breadth of topics to walk viewers through common software, web tools or any other resource delivered through a computer screen. Anything that takes place on screen can be captured and turned into digital learning content. Those organisations that are struggling, or anticipate struggling, with an ICT skills gap can create such resources now using the knowledge already in-house - ultimately building an informal training programme around it.

Overcoming the ICT skills gap

Creating a training programme around screencast content will meet the longer term need to overcome the ICT skills gap, and also offers several short-term benefits for employees looking to improve their ICT knowledge.  

Watching a screencast video with a voice narration is similar to being shown how to complete a task by a colleague, which makes the training process much more engaging and accessible. Similarly, by providing content in short ‘chunked’ form makes it easier for employees to absorb. In this instance, chunking refers to breaking up learning content into short form videos, making it easier to view and recall.

Consistency of training is also improved, as content within the videos is identical each time, ensuring key points are successfully conveyed each time.  

Developing an entire training programme around screencasting may sound like a significant undertaking, and it may well be for certain organisations. However, it is preferable to the possibility of facing further ICT shortfalls in the near future. Taking the time to invest in training resources and capitalising on the knowledge that already exists will reduce this risk for organisations in the longer term.     

Matt Pierce is customer engagement manager at TechSmith Corporation. He can be found tweeting on @piercemr.

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