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The Top Digital Skills Employers Are Looking for in an Employee

Dive In
  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Bromstein

Employers are desperate to hire people with digital skills. A few, in particular, are in top demand.

Nearly eight out of ten Canadian businesses are looking for employees with digital skills according to a new survey.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to change the way we work and companies have had to adopt a digital-first mindset to survive. Some industries have been described as having to advance at the speed of “decades in days,” leaving many short on staff with the skills to meet these new requirements.

The most sought-after digital skills by employers

The most sought after skill is cyber/information security. This makes sense, as more communications and information move online, security is going to be a top priority. The second most wanted skill is data analytics/analysis.

KPMG Canada polled 505 Canadian small- and medium-sized owners and decision-makers between August 6 and August 15, 2021, and found that:

  1. 79% said the pandemic changed the way they work, and they need more employees with IT skills

  2. 69% they plan to hire more staff over the next three years

  3. 24% ranked cyber/information security as the most required skill

  4. 20% ranked data analytics/analysis as the top required skill

  5. 68% are having a hard time hiring people with the skill sets they need to grow

  6. 52% are not confident they will find people with the skills they need and will consider recruiting outside Canada

  7. 89% are investing in developing their workforce’s skills and capabilities

The inability to find or retain talent was identified as the number one threat to a business’s growth prospects.

Demand for digital talent is accelerating globally, notes the research brief. So, companies are looking for internal solutions, and are upskilling their existing workforces. They are also starting to recognize “micro-credentials” to help expedite the upskilling of their employees, says the report.

Don’t know what “micro-credentials” are? According to the Government of Ontario website, Micro-credentials are rapid training programs offered by colleges, universities and Indigenous Institutes that can help people acquire the skills employers need. “They help people retrain and upgrade their skills to find new employment.”

It would be smart for anyone who is looking for work in any sectors that might require these skills to spend time learning them.

You don’t have to go back to school

Note that many employers don’t care if you have a degree or certificate these days. They’re still listed as requirements in job postings but a lot of people are caring less and less about formal education, and pretty much anything you want to learn, you can self-teach and/or learn online, often for reasonable prices or even for free. Plus, many paid courses have the option to audit for free. So, before you start stressing about paying for courses and finding schools, look into learning on your own.

Coursera, for example, offers free trials and membership plans and has a course called “IT Security: Defense against the digital dark arts.” I haven’t taken it, so can’t speak to its quality but there is an option to audit it.

Once you’ve taken a course or taught yourself a new skill, find ways to apply and demonstrate that skill, like volunteering, helping friends, writing articles, or creating mock scenarios or presentations. Employers are increasingly interested in seeing that you can actually do something than they are in seeing that you have a piece of paper saying you can do it.

Continuing to learn will help your career and make you more attractive to employers.

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