Closing the Digital Skills Gap and Bridging the Opportunity Divide

For Technology Skills Platform Pluralsight, bridging the digital skills gap and addressing the diversity problem is all part of a good business strategy.

“Technology is poised to create a world of incredible prosperity and opportunity or incredible inequity, so our mission is to democratize technology to the world, and by so doing close the digital skills gap,” says Aaron Skonnard, President and CEO of Pluralsight.

In an environment where the typical software engineer has to re-develop their skillset every 12–18 months to keep up with changes in technology, the learning platform that Skonnard founded 13 years ago has tapped into the huge demand for high-level digital skills. A recent report by Stack Overflow showed that developers are increasingly diversifying the way they learn, and that they generally did not evaluate their colleagues on the level of their education but on a well-rounded skillset.

“If you are choosing to be a developer today, you are choosing to be a lifelong learner, there’s no other way to survive.” says Skonnard. “The best developers are the ones who really love to learn and are committed to keeping learning. That’s very true of tech in general, which is what makes this market so unique to us.”

Pluralsight now work with about 40% of fortune 500 companies and boast a valuation of almost $1 billion. Their community of course authors consists of a highly curated group of industry experts working as contractors to generate exclusive content for the platform. “We spearfish for best authors and best teachers in the industry, out of 100 accept only 1 or 2,” explains Skonnard. Their author community is currently about 1500 strong, and they can earn substantial royalties through their content — their top author made over $2 million last year.

I met Skonnard at the company’s inaugural Pluralsight Live conference in Salt Lake City. The area is home to a surprisingly vibrant cluster of technology companies, known as “Silicon Slopes,” but a lot of people had travelled from much further afield to be there, including former First Lady Michelle Obama, who herself has always been a passionate advocate for education.

But in spite of the usual tech conference celebratory mood, the focus of the event was on tackling some the big issues facing the technology industry, and society in general. And in Pluralsight’s vision, the two are fundamentally aligned:

“Bringing together the demand for tech skills and the talent that currently does not have the access to training and resource is the easiest and surest way to break the cycle of poverty. We have to tackle both at the same time and there are no shortcuts,” Skonnard told the 1800 attendees during his opening keynote. “We will create a future for marginalized communities and transform technology learning.”

One of the features announced at the conference that they believe will help towards that goal was Pluralsight IQ, a score (ranging from 0–300) that tells you where your various skills stack up against the global population of developers. There are currently has 45 skill assessments available across a variety of subjects, including Angular, C#, JavaScript and Python, with plans to quickly grow the collection.

“In as little as five minutes and 20 questions, technologists around the world can measure their current skill level and receive a verified Pluralsight IQ, which provides a quantified measure of their current skill proficiency, a timestamp that reflects the relevancy of their score and an easy way for them to showcase it.”

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Originally published at Tech Trends.

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