Solving the Skills Gap in the IT Industry: Lowering the Barriers to Learning

As innovation has opened up opportunities, it has also highlighted an IT skills gap that threatens success and future workforce viability.


Businesses across industries and geographies have been on a rapid journey of digital transformation over the last decade, only to be accelerated further over the past year by a global pandemic. This technological acceleration has created a double-edged sword for businesses and the leaders who run them. As innovation has opened up opportunities, it has also highlighted an IT skills gap that threatens business success and future workforce viability.

Even before the pandemic, skill shortages loomed as technology transformed industry after industry. McKinsey & Company reported that 87% of companies are either currently facing skills gaps or expect gaps to emerge in the next five years. Reskilling is essential to building resilience into any people operation, validated by reports from The World Economic Forum that indicate 42% of the core skills required for jobs will change by 2022.

As important as it is to focus on technological investment, as leaders we must not forget to invest in the people who drive the transformation. And not just our current employees, but those seeking work, those looking to switch jobs, and graduating students entering the workforce. In order to holistically address the skills gap, we must fuel the people who make up the entirety of the workforce, regardless of where they are in their career journeys. And, to do so, we must lower the barriers to training and development, and embed continuous learning into our people strategies to ensure the workforce stays up-to-date and retains the skills needed to drive a digitally-native future.

Simplify Access to Learning for All

Regardless of the approach, all investments in learning and development come down to simplifying access to learning for all. The pandemic has exemplified the need and urgency to lower the barriers to essential knowledge and provide employees with the right tools and resources to further their skills and be successful in their current roles.

As needs evolve, companies must adapt training and development programs to meet learners where they are in their journeys – which often requires quick, bite-sized content. At SAP, we’ve seen tremendous enrollment in our free learning platform that delivers expert-led content through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Microlearning, demonstrating that learners flock to content that is innovative, engaging, and impactful. 

Empower the Unemployed

The pandemic’s shift to remote work has also highlighted the disconnect between the skills companies need and those in the current workforce. Many skills that were previously in demand are now obsolete, and those that are needed aren’t in high supply. The pandemic has left many unemployed and seeking new jobs.

There’s an opportunity for the IT industry to empower those who are unemployed or looking for new jobs, and strengthen our ecosystem, by building pathways to meaningful work through skilling and accreditation where it’s needed most. For example, the People to Work by SAP program helps enable our entire ecosystem by providing high-quality training to job seekers that can ultimately lead to certification and employment. This has impact. 

Fuel the Future Generation

Our commitment to closing the skills gap would be incomplete if we didn’t take care of the next generation of talent. By partnering with universities and offering training on SAP Learning Hub, we empower and certify students to gain a true competitive advantage to kick off any career within the SAP ecosystem. And we’ll be there to help them continuously update their skills as they advance in their careers, switch jobs, and adapt to every digital transformation to come.

The pace of change is fast and getting faster. To keep up, we must be digital-first, and learner obsessed. We must meet the learner where they are. And we must continuously adapt to make sure that everyone has the skills they need for our increasingly digital future.


Maxwell Wessel is EVP and Chief Learning Officer at SAP, responsible for SAP’s efforts to create opportunity through learning and development for employees, customers, and partners. In this capacity he leads SAP’s learning, early talent, leadership development, training, and developer relations teams.