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The ongoing transformation in the TLC industry significantly impacts work market. The constantly evolving technological innovation involves, indeed, the implementation of new organizational models, the boosting of employee’s skills and the involvement of young people for the generational turnover. These are the greatest challenges faced by Italian companies which must navigate a marketplace where the added value derived from later developed technologies is predominant together with a chronic shortage of professionals.

Asstel, 76% of Italian companies experiencing troubles finding talented employees

If we want to analyze high-tech market, we necessarily must start from considering empirical data. According to the last report by Asstel, many companies face the shortage of employees with technical expertise in specific disciplines: concerning the tertiary education in STEM (University + ITS), the 2023 Report shows an annual mismatch of approximately 6,200 people between demand and supply during the period from 2023 to 2027. The same situation applies to companies where 76% of TCL skilled workers is missing and where only 14% of companies believe that school systems are well structured and qualitative and quantitative adequate.

The so-called Talent Shortage in the TCL industry is also reported by Manpower, focusing on 2024 employment prospects in Italy. According to these figures, the talents available on the market don’t meet the demand from TLC companies: more specifically, 75% of Italian companies experience troubles in finding talented employees. Despite the Talent Shortage, companies predict 12% increase of employment, compared to the one from last quarter (-3%).

Figures from Osservatario about digital know-how

An in-depth analysis of the shortage is also provided by figures from Osservatorio sulle Competenze Digitali 2023, conducted by Aica, Anitec-Assinform and Assintel in partnership with Talents Venture, which identifies a clear gap between ICT skills and the demand of the market. Over the last years, the online demand of ICT professionals has increased from 453.000 job postings (in 2019) to more than 1.3 million in February 2023.

If considering 2022 and the Italian market only, the reports show that only 44.000 young professionals graduated from traditional educational institutions, like universities, schools and ITS programs. This contrasts with the 219.000 job postings published online; looking at the bigger picture, jobs postings increased by 116% between 2019 and 2023. In conclusion, in 2022 there was a shortage of 175.000 ICT professionals. The most needed candidates in the field are software developers, software engineers, and systems/network engineers. Java and front-end apps developers represent 40% of candidates, while cloud architects and system engineers represent 20% only, meaning that companies look for younger people with programming languages and cloud computing skills.

Eurostat, in Europe the shortage of high-skilled and talented people affects the ICT industry  

The analysis from Eurostat, the European Statistical Institute, shows a significant mismatch between offer and demand in the ICT industry. According to the latest data (2023), 60% of Italian companies, which have already hired or are in the process of hiring ICT specialists, have been facing troubles identifying them. A difficult scenario, according to Eurostat, exacerbated by the fact that information and communication technologies have rapidly become an integral part of companies’ daily tasks. With the emerging complex technologies and the increase of Internet usage, companies need high-skilled specialists to adapt to digital environments. Therefore, IT and telecommunications technicians are increasingly needed in the European market.

If on the one hand, the demand of AI and social media specialists keeps increasing, on the other many companies can’t find the suitable workers. Last year, at European level, almost 1 company out of 10 (9.5%) hired people (or at least they were trying to hire ICT specialists in 2021) while 62.8% faced problems. The percentage of companies facing problems during selection process was substantially higher in large enterprises (72.2%), although the rates are also high among medium-sized enterprises (63.7%) and small enterprises (59.9%). The EU member states facing the greatest challenges are Slovenia (78.0%) and Germany (76.6%), meaning that over three-quarters of the companies that hired or tried to hire specialists had difficulty filling vacancies. Luxembourg stands at 70.9%, and the Netherlands (70.4%) closely follow, with a significant percentage of companies facing the same difficulties. The lowest rates were recorded in Spain (32.8%), Bulgaria (46.0%), Poland (46.5%), Slovakia (51.4%), and Cyprus (54.5%).

Upskilling and Reskilling: how to promote internal trainings

Alongside recruitment process, the promotion of internal trainings could help companies find employees with required skills.  With this respect, both the ongoing upskilling and reskilling training programs and the growing need to enhance employees’ engagement are among the greatest challenges faced by HR. In 2022, in TLC companies, upskilling and reskilling activities involved approximately 57,000 people, almost 97% of the total workforce (with 3% participating in reskilling initiatives), resulting in an increase compared to 94% in 2021. Two years ago, almost every employee attended 6 training days, an increase compared to 4/5 days from previous years. Even in TLC industry, the number of people involved in trainings has significantly increased resulting in almost one employee out of two participating in them. Specifically, the most in-demand jobs are those in Cybersecurity, Data Protection, AI, Machine Learning, and Bid Data Analysis.

How big companies are implementing programs

According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, more than 375 million workers could be involved in reskilling training by 2030; despite that, not all companies are working on it. It is estimated that only one third of companies have already started implementing reskilling programs while the most part of employers prefer hiring high-skilled and already trained workers having, this way, a higher market cost.

AI tools could potentially enhance productivity and trainings efforts: according to a report by Deloitte, reskilling/upskilling initiatives aim to improve AI within productive workflows; this will entail the development of new trainings programs to foster efficiency in specific fields, like machine learning, data analysis, and algorithms development. The ongoing training programs in these fields allow employees further increase and/or develop highly-specialized skills, otherwise needed in managing AI and related technologies.

Some companies, especially multinational corporations, have already tested (and keep doing so) reskilling and upskilling programs for their workforce in order to be prepared for potential changes in the job market. This is the case of JPMorgan Chase which has launched a brand-new program named Tech Connect which is geared towards increasing employee’s knowledge and skills to manage emerging technologies. Amazon has launched a new training program named Upskilling 2025 which aims to provide employees with necessary skills for future jobs, like AI and robotics.

AT &T have invested more than 1 billion dollars in these kinds of initiatives. IBM has launched New Collar Program for digital jobs, like apps developers and data analysts. In the US, Walmart has created Academy Program which provides its workers with necessary knowledge and skills to perform future job-related tasks.

So both reskilling an upskilling are key factors to help companies embrace changes in the job market, especially those concerning AI implementation. This will require the implementation of new training programs and the support of employers to make sure employees can both have professional growth within their companies and be able to adapt to the new needs of production workflows.

PNRR and education

In Italy, the PNRR could significantly improve these reskilling/upskilling programs. More specifically, with the PNRR it is estimated that almost 1.5. billion euros will be allocated by the end of this year to fund these initiatives aimed to enhance workers’ know-how and let them excel and perform in digital activities, like AI and environmental sustainability fields.

At the same time, these initiatives are designed for fostering digital competencies in specific areas, like computer science, data analysis, and cyber security, and for implementing projects in the frame of a more sustainable economy, renewable energy, eco-friendly mobility, and communications/ leadership skills. The PNRR has also envisaged more tax incentives for companies investing in their workers.

Italian Government measure to boost schools and professional institutes  

The Italian Government is in the process of changing schools’ programs in order to meet the increasing demand of people with high-tech skills. With the draft law approved in 2023, the Government implemented new tech-professional programs starting in 2024/2025; these initiatives encompass experimental courses for students attending the second cycle of their education, courses by ITS Academy, vocational trainings, and specialized trainings for technical high-schools.

A shared and common didactic and training offer is thereby provided, including the opportunity of creating campuses where secondary schools, universities, Afam institutes, and other public or private schools can adhere to. One of the greatest news is that these trainings allow for the completion of the technical-professional study program in four years.

Europe is taking action

The European Union has been discussing on digital competences and the growing need to strengthen these skills in the future generations of young people to better navigate a competitive job market. EU Commission has, indeed, issued two calls for proposals with an overall budget of 40 million euros aimed at encouraging a partnership between high-schools, research institutes, and innovative companies. The goal is to provide students with trainings in several areas, like cloud, AI, blockchain, cybersecurity, quantum computing and extended reality.

The first proposal, which retains 30 million euros of the overall funding, aims to support the greatest minds from high schools, making them as a role model in shaping the education of the future generation of digital workers and increasing trainings opportunities within the digital environment. With this in mind, Brussels seeks to create educational eco systems where high-schools collaborate together with industrial and research partners to encourage talented young people apply to them.

The second proposal, with an overall budget of 10 million euros, aims to support the European Cybersecurity Skills Academy with training programs for PMI, Start-Ups, and public sector. The main goal is to encourage the implementation of trainings for cyber-forensics, cyber range, malware analysis and AI professionals.

Final thoughts

The lack of high-skilled employees, with technical knowledge, and the challenge faced by companies which try to expand their workforce, result in an incontrovertible and sad reality. Figures from companies and research institutes leave little room for doubts and/or different interpretations.

A strong strategy to fill this gap needs to be implemented: firstly, when we talk about education, we should make sure that schools foster the development of multiple high-tech oriented studies, from primary schools till high schools; secondly, schools’ system should always promote qualified university and post university trainings, which can leverage students’ skills make them capable of meeting the demand of the job market. In this sense, a closer coordination between universities and the business world can play a crucial role.

At the same time, some companies could make their significant contributions by allocating money to promote educational experiences, like through campuses or internships across various places like in the States. In addition to the conventional recruitment, reskilling and upskilling are a great solution for meeting companies’ employment needs, while waiting for new trainings to consistently educate professionals with technological skills required by the job market.