A Report on PEAT’s 2018 Skills Gap Research Findings
The Accessible Technology Skills Gap
Since PEAT’s founding in 2013, we have helped dozens of companies build accessibility awareness into their workplace. The majority of the companies in our network now have accessibility policies and programs in place. They are also increasingly making digital accessibility an imperative, not an afterthought, for both their internal systems and the products and services they bring to the marketplace. They are doing this because they have looked at the business case and know that this is good for the bottom line and the right thing to do. But PEAT has found that a current major barrier is that many organizations can’t find job candidates with the accessible tech skills they need—and 57% report that as a result, their products and services are less accessible than they want.
In December 2017, PEAT convened more than 60 leaders from across the tech sector to discuss how to increase accessible workplace technology. One major issue identified was a lack of availability of accessible technology skills in the IT sector. To better understand this issue, PEAT partnered with Teach Access to ask our community to tell us about the accessible technology skills in their organizations.
The Gap is Wide
We heard from 70 respondents across a broad range of companies and public sector organizations. 3 out of 5 respondents confirmed that it was “difficult or very difficult” for their organization to find job candidates with accessibility skills—and 0% felt it was easy. In fact, 63% say their current staff don’t have the accessible technology skills to meet their organizations’ goals, and 38% reported that jobs stay open longer or go unfilled as a result.
The True Cost
The responses indicate that although companies clearly feel such investment is worthwhile, the skills gap can lead to increased costs and decreased productivity. Specifically, organizations are paying for significant on-the-job training or supplementing with external training to help their staff build these skills. One respondent lamented that “we resign ourselves to the fact we can hire very bright people but are going to have to start from square one when it comes to accessibility.” Almost 40% said that jobs in their organizations stay open longer or go unfilled because of a lack of accessible tech skills among candidates.
Demand Will Increase
Respondents project that the need for accessibility skills will only keep growing—which is great news for candidates looking for a way to stand out from the crowd! Among industry respondents, 83% reported seeing a moderate or significant increase in demand for accessibility skills over the last five years, and over 93% of industry respondents expect this demand will increase in the future. And 93.5% of all respondents reported that it was “very important” to them personally to hire more people with accessibility skills.
Closing the Gap
With future demand growing for these key skills, PEAT is working with its partners to look for ways to address this gap. Here are some of the things we are doing now and we look forward to YOUR ideas for how to make progress:
- Respondents confirmed the need to work with colleges and universities to infuse curricula with more accessible technology skills. PEAT is partnering with Teach Access to help make this a reality.
- Only about one third of respondents said that their HR teams consider accessible technology skills when they recruit developer and designer candidates. PEAT is working with companies and HR organizations like SHRM to help HR professionals better understand why these skills matter and how to increase the supply of candidates with these skills.
- A majority of respondents said they would like to explore using an apprenticeship model to train and certify employees to have these skills. PEAT is partnering with organizations like Apprenti and IAAP to explore such approaches.
PEAT has developed an infographic to visually showcase these major findings.