IT, jobs on the rise
It’s not the lack of jobs, but the lack of workers. This could be a valid summary of the job market situation in Italy, where – despite graduates struggling to find employment – there are others highly sought after by companies undergoing digital transformation. It’s the mismatch between the skills required by the job market, increasingly IT-related, and those offered by candidates.
According to a recent estimate by the Anitec-Assinform Digital Skills Observatory, there are 89,000 vacant jobs in the technology sector in Italy. This gap generates a real race for “tech talent” that takes on multiple forms: fierce competition between companies, high turnover of resources, a slowdown in corporate digitalization strategies, but also – positively – a push from companies to provide internal training, to foster ties with the territory, and to propose hybrid work methods that improve work-life balance. As we reported in the February Duneditorial, these are all initiatives that the Dune group already pursues.
The most in-demand IT jobs in Italy, according to Assintec-Assinform, are those of developer (about 32,000 out of a total of 89,000 vacant IT positions) followed by cloud specialist, enterprise architect, test specialist, data specialist, and information security specialist. Italian data is similar to that of other European countries. For example, according to the “Demand for Tech Talent” report by the British company Robert Half, IT security technicians, developers, and cloud specialists are the most sought-after figures in the United Kingdom.
Robert Half study finds also that 72% of IT teams in the UK report significant shortages. In Italy, over half of companies have difficulty finding resources with adequate IT skills in the market, according to the “Next Generation digITALY” study conducted by The European House – Ambrosetti together with Microsoft Italy. And, since all professions will need digital skills (not just technological ones), the European House – Ambrosetti estimates that Italy will need to train over two million workers with these skills by 2026.
Obviously, the basis for nurturing IT workers is the educational path, from secondary school to degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects. But STEM graduates in Italy, according to Istat (“Italy 2023: People, Work, Business”), are only about a third of the total (and among women, it doesn’t even reach 20%), despite their high “employability”: STEM graduates work in 85.7% of cases, compared to 81.1% of all Italian graduates.
To solve the problem of the IT skills shortage, one of the solutions with immediate impact is, according to McKinsey, courage, i.e., hiring talented people who do not have a technological background. Already today, 44% of workers in tech roles come from previous roles unrelated to the sector, according to the study “Overcoming the Fear Factor in Hiring Tech Talent.”
87% of global top managers say their company was not prepared to address the digital skills gap even before the pandemic; Covid then exacerbated the shortage because it made it more urgent to integrate digital skills into the company. The skills that companies cite as the most sought-after are software programming, data management, platform design, analytics-based automation, customer experience design, and cybersecurity.
For some of these roles, it is possible to hire non-technical candidates who are capable of expanding their skill set by up to 53%, bridging what McKinsey defines as the “skill distance.” Employers must know how to select candidates based on their potential: in a market where IT talents are scarce and contested, it is legitimate to seek people with the mentality and soft skills required by the role, while more specific technical skills will be trained in-house. At least for now
The virtuous circle between universities and businesses
The virtuous circle between universities and businesses is a long-term solution for nurturing the talent pool in the production sector. From this perspective, the University of Calabria‘s offering represents an Italian excellence that Dune has been able to recognize, both by hiring IT personnel from the Calabrian university and by opening a local branch that adds value to the area. The excellence of the University of Cosenza has also been built on its experimental nature, which has given it greater flexibility compared to ministerial programs, as Professor Manlio Gaudioso, Professor of Operations Research at the University of Calabria since 1994, explains.
“Italian talents are of a high level because they are trained on the method, and it is this kind of talent that we have found in Calabria,” says Rosario Morbegno, SAP Consultant Trilog and head of Dune’s office in Cosenza.
Professor Gaudioso is also a former executive of CRAI, the Consortium for Research and Applications of Informatics, born in Cosenza in the 1970s (thanks to funding from Cassa del Mezzogiorno), which played an important role in shaping the IT skills and businesses of Calabria. One of CRAI’s greatest insights was to allocate one-third of its resources to an advanced training program. In three years, 60 people were trained with a course equivalent to a PhD for graduates in scientific subjects. Once the experience of the consortium was over, some of these 60 specialists returned to the ranks of Calabrian university professors and businesses, fueling the creation of skills and the launch of projects on advanced technologies such as speech recognition, database theory, and relational databases.
This university-business exchange continues today and occurs in both directions: the needs of businesses also reflect on the teaching of the University of Calabria, offering training in areas such as logistics, the Internet of Things, cybersecurity, robotics, and software systems of significant operational use such as SAP. “A virtuous circle has been set in motion with the university that benefits Dune and other companies present in the area,” observes Morbegno.
“The University of Calabria pays great attention to what the market demands, while not accepting to be exclusively market-driven but rather with a strong methodological content,” concludes Professor Gaudioso. “But precisely this approach leads to the inclusion of macro-themes of great interest to companies in the educational offer, like machine learning and its myriad of useful applications.”
Providing (and training) IT professionals
The need to fill the IT talent mismatch is one of the most felt by Italian companies, both for temporary and permanent positions, for roles in national offices as well as for projects abroad. Dune has responded to this need through a dedicated company, HAL 20, managed by the head of the business unit, Andrea Di Fazio.
HAL 20 was born as a staffing service for Dune’s internal needs, but the quality of the selected professionals soon attracted the interest of other companies, and today HAL 20 also satisfies the IT staffing requests of third-party clients, whether they are clients of Dune or not. In total, Di Fazio and his team have mapped more than 3,000 IT professionals with whom they collaborate and who can be sent to third-party companies according to their needs. In particular, HAL 20 has qualified people available in SAP, SalesForce, Microsoft systems, and major development platforms (Java, PHP, Node, Angular, Flutter, etc…), and is able to send customers a shortlist of pre-selected consultants capable of covering the open position within 24 hours of the request.
“New graduates often do not know management software,” reveals Di Fazio. “Universities tend to focus more on development languages like Java than on systems like SAP and Salesforce. Other skills that are requested are related to cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as data science.” Companies are also very attentive to soft skills, including listening and analysis skills, interpersonal relationship attitudes, the ability to gain the trust of customers, and the ability to work in teams.
This Dune business unit mainly assists partners and end customers during peak demand periods. “It is an activity that we have been conducting since before the lockdown, and personally, I have been working in this field for several years, with extensive experience abroad,” says Di Fazio. “In the IT sector, the demand for qualified personnel is always high, often exceeding the supply. Today, staffing for external clients is our core business. We can provide people for both temporary and permanent projects who have already been selected and verified for their qualifications and skills.” Di Fazio’s team also manages IT profile requests for Italian companies with foreign offices that may need consultants on-site for temporary positions.
Therefore, IT is confirmed as an industry that is hungry for talent and is ready to hire. “STEM subjects are not chosen to an adequate extent by university students; yet, they open many doors to the job,” says Di Fazio. “If you are looking for guaranteed work, IT is the sector to focus on.”
However, to work in IT, you must be willing to learn continuously: the study path does not end with a degree. “Engineering and computer science provide good preparation, but some skills, including SAP and Salesforce, require further training, which is often provided by companies investing in the growth of their resources, also through internal Academies.”
Continuous, professional, and personal training remains a pillar for every worker. At Dune, we are strongly committed to this front. Not only do we respond to the IT talent demands of companies and fuel virtuous collaborations with territories and universities, but we intend to make a contribution to high-level training. We will update you soon on this new initiative.
Food for thought…
- The book: “Il lavoro che c’è. Jobs on the rise. I mestieri degli anni 20 tra digitale, media e nuovi media” by Luca Maniscalco. Over 25 professionals, journalists, and business managers share their experience to deepen the skills required by the job market, highlighting the professional figures leading the digital transformation.
- The UK study: “Demand for tech talent” by Robert Half.
- The Italian study: “Next generation digiITALY“ by The European House-Ambrosetti.
- In Italian: “Skills first hiring: c’era una volta il titolo, oggi valgono soprattutto le competenze“, the podcast by Asnor-National Association of Career Advisers, explores the trend of hiring based on competencies and the ability to embrace the company culture, rather than simply on previous work experience.
- In English: “The ‘Great Talent Shortage’: Hiring beyond work experience“, the podcast by Resources for employers, explores the trend of more and more companies hiring based on competencies and the ability to embrace the company culture, rather than simply on previous work experience.