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Coping with the shortage in digital professions: a study of needs and training opportunities

On October 9, 2023, Alp ICT presented a comprehensive study of the digital landscape in the Canton of Vaud, thanks in particular to the support of a group of experts: enovating SA, a company specializing in data science; Inox communication SA, a strategic communications agency; Thomas Pfefferlé, a freelance journalist specializing in the development of editorial concepts; and Creative Business Company Sàrl, a start-up focused on the evolution of business models. 

The main objective is to examine the alignment of training programs with the real needs of companies in the digital sector. 

In addition to the presentation of the study and a review of some of its key facts and figures - see details below - the event also benefited from the insights of State Councillors Isabelle Moret & Frédéric Borloz, who presented the Canton's outlook. A round-table discussion, punctuated by questions from the audience, provided an even more practical perspective on the situation in the sector. 

Constantly evolving technologies raise the question of training in digital professions and how to match it to market needs, in both quantitative and qualitative terms: 

  • is the company training enough talent? 
  • is training consistent with professional needs?

With almost 12 months of data consolidated by enovating, SME experts in #DataMining, over 200 questionnaires collected from those who make up the Vaud economic ecosystem, more than 25 interviews with key players in the digital sector and 3 workshops bringing together some 30 companies... This study, carried out on behalf of theState of Vaud and its various attached departments: Département de l'enseignement et de la formation professionnelle (DEF ) and Département de l'économie, de l'innovation, de l'emploi et du patrimoine (DEIEP), provides clear indicators as to the number of training courses offered by the canton of Vaud, while assessing their relevance in terms of programs with a view to satisfactorily meeting the requirements of Vaud's economic fabric.

Study on companies' needs and training opportunities in digital professions: initial assessment 

A field-oriented methodology

The study was structured in three distinct phases:

  • Phase #1 - Data mining: this phase involved in-depth exploration of available data, often referred to as "data mining". The team analyzed digital job offers from a variety of sources to understand the needs of companies. At the same time, an analysis of training programs, ranging from CFC to Master's degrees, was carried out for the Canton of Vaud.
  • Phase #2 - questionnaire to companies: to understand how companies felt about the shortage of digital skills and their recruitment methods, a questionnaire was distributed. Thanks to the collaboration of the CCIG, the Centre patronal and Innovaud, 200 responses were received.
  • Phase #3 - interviews & workshops: in this phase, 25 companies were interviewed to obtain more detailed information. In addition, three workshops were organized, bringing together around 30 companies to discuss challenges and possible solutions.

Key results: analysis of job offers

In order to be able to structure the results of the various aspects of the study, 9 major digital job families have been identified in advance. 2 data collection periods (December 2021-June 2022 and May-July 2023) were defined, and their comparison has already shown a generally stable job market, with a variation of around 1 to 2%. The digital sector's share of job offers has remained stable at around 10%. It should be noted that 36% of companies say they recruit directly without advertising.

In more detail, the analysis first revealed that the Canton of Vaud is the second biggest recruiter in the digital sector in Switzerland, after Zurich. 

Development, infrastructure management and IT systems are the most in-demand professions, followed by digital-related professions and everything to do with data science. It's also interesting to note a few variations, albeit minimal, between the 2 analysis periods: demand for development professions has fallen slightly, perhaps offset by an increase in demand for related professions.  

We can also point to an increase in demand for data services (+5.5%), which could suggest that companies are increasingly adopting a data-driven development and growth strategy.

Yvan Jacquat, CEO of GradeSens and winner of the latest The Shapers 2023 award, spoke at length on the subject, or how at the heart of industry 4.0, he supported his customers in the digital transformation of their production chain by basing his data analyses on the principle of "digital twins".

Finally, demand in security-related professions also increased slightly between the 2 periods (+1.7%). A number of other graphs and statistics with different data cross-references help to clarify the profile of employment in digital professions, and in particular the level of maturity by sector of activity, where the finance sector is showing strong growth. The data from the second harvest period also shows that companies are making an increasingly important transition to digital technology, with demand for skills increasing among management IT specialists (+11.6%).

Analysis of profiles sought

In order to correlate the needs of Vaud's economic fabric with training opportunities, a more granular analysis was carried out on job vacancies to identify the skills companies are looking for. After analyzing these skills, 26 digital profiles stand out as the most sought-after by July 31, 2023.

If we go into a little more detail, the software developer profile, which was by far the No. 1 requirement, saw a decline over the second period. The same applies to IT support technicians.

There are several possible explanations for these variations:

  • the persistent shortage is making the market somewhat "dry", forcing companies to organize their recruitment differently and, potentially, to stop publishing job offers,
  • it is also likely that the profile of software developer is changing, diversifying and being diluted by other profiles (i.e. the principle of "linked professions"),
  • And then there's the outsourcing dimension expressed by companies, which could reduce demand for these profiles.

There has also been a sharp increase in the number of engineers working in security and, in line with the sector's growth, in data science. This trend is in line with the changing employment landscape in the digital sector. This granularity in profile analysis has enabled us to make a finer correlation with training offers.

As of July 31, 2023, the situation is positive: companies' needs are covered by a sufficient number of training courses. At the same time, all training courses lead to one or more possible careers in the vast field of digital technology. 

Analysis of training offers & online questionnaire

In terms of training opportunities, 93 digital training courses were identified in the Canton of Vaud, representing some 1,000 students trained each year, with only 19% women. One of the dark spots in this study is the very low representation of women in the sector, which could be one of the contributions, both in terms of numbers and quality, to overcome the shortage. It's worth noting the good match between the level of training and the most sought-after and hired profiles, i.e. Master's & Bachelor's degrees in IT and CFC in Computer Science.

Based on the online questionnaires, 2 figures stand out in particular: 

  • 33%, the number of companies that have expressed a need for ongoing training. In their view, this is a major challenge, particularly in the fast-moving digital professions.
  • and 25%, which refers to the rate of abandonment of a project, depending on the company, due to a lack of qualified resources in the field. In SMEs and smaller structures, this phenomenon represents a major threat to the very survival of the business in general, and in particular, in that it can act as a brake on innovation and the development of competitive advantages.

Observations and recommendations

  • There is indeed a quantitative shortage of talent in the digital sector.
  • Gender imbalance is deeply entrenched, with too few women in the sector
  • Training needs are covered but require constant updating of skills
  • Hybridization is a recurring theme, whether in terms of skills, training or collaboration.
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