Programming languages such as Java, as well as AI-adjacent skills, will top employers’ wish list this year. However, employers need to ensure their in-house L&D programmes are as efficient as possible for workers to reap the benefits.
If you’re a regular reader of SiliconRepublic.com’s careers section, you already know that skills are what everyone is talking about. Lifelong learning, apprenticeships, employer-led L&D programmes and getting to grips with AI are other trends we have seen over the past year. They all feed into the overall skills topic, though – and skills are going to continue to be a much-talked-about topic in 2024.
But how do you know what skills are actually in demand? While there is definitely an argument that any new tech skill you learn is a good and worthwhile skill, not all skills are of equal value in reality. With changes in marketplace demands, trends and a whole lot of other factors determining what technologies are ‘hot’, it’s fair to say that some skills will stand to you better than others.
That doesn’t mean that you have to throw all your hard work out the window if you find there isn’t currently a demand for your particular skill. The good – or bad – thing about the tech market is that it is always in flux. What is ‘hot’ this year might be on the back burner next year, or even sooner than that.
Python or Java, or both?
There is also the fact that some of the people who make bold claims about tech skills being ‘hot’ or ‘not hot’ have a vested interest in a particular technology. For example, Simon Ritter, deputy CTO of Azul, a Java platform for cloud enterprise clients, says that demand for Python is waning. You can more than likely take that with a pinch of salt; Python is one of the most popular programming languages around. If you know it, keep it up.
Despite his dismissal of Python, Ritter does have some interesting insights for Java learners. He thinks that 2024 will be Java’s year – and he has the stats to back his case up. According to a 2023 survey Azul carried out on more than 2,000 businesses using Java, 98pc said they use the language in software or infrastructure.
More than half (57pc) described Java as the backbone of most of their applications. All of this might sound like self-promotion for Azul’s Java offerings, but the survey revealed that a lot of the businesses currently using Java are struggling with over-complex systems. That means there will be a demand for people with Java skills to help optimise Java-based systems. Just don’t give up on Python.
AI is still the big one
If you’re looking for a new skill to pick up in 2024, you can do no better than AI. Unlike various different programming languages, we can safely say that the demand for AI skills is going nowhere. All workers need to have some level of competency with AI, whether they work in tech or not. As for those who do work in tech, even AI-adjacent skills – such as data science, automation, machine learning and cybersecurity – will be in demand by employers.
Skillable, a US-headquartered digital skills provider, finds that the top AI skills workers should be prioritising for the year ahead are machine learning, natural language processing, AIOps, AI ethics, data science and cybersecurity awareness for AI systems.
Employers need to up their game
But it’s not just workers who need to update their priorities for the coming months. Skillable works with a lot of Big Tech players such as IBM, Microsoft and Amazon. According to a survey of more than 1,000 tech workers it carried out at the end of 2023, a lot of workers think the training they are receiving at the minute is ineffective and unhelpful.
Four in 10 workers reported that they are frustrated that the learning technologies they use don’t help them do their jobs better. The same share said that current learning tech does not enable them to demonstrate their skills appropriately.
More than half (59pc) said they want to see more learning content that is relevant to their role, and more than a third (37pc) said they struggle with a lack of training tied to a specific level or expertise.
All this means that employers and L&D providers have to step up their game if they want a workforce that is gaining something from in-house education programmes – otherwise it’s a waste of time and funds.
10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.