When boarding a train in the United Kingdom, you’re likely to hear or see warnings to “mind the gap,” the open space between the station platform and the entrance to the car. It seems obvious, but all it takes is one misstep and the consequences could be very painful.

There’s a technology skills and talent gap in business as well, and it’s widening and trickier than ever to navigate. According to a recent survey of 3,000 tech leaders conducted by IT outsourcers Harvey Nash and Big Four auditing firm KPMG, talent shortfalls might be at their highest levels in more than a decade. In fact, in its annual CIO Survey, 65 percent of respondents said hiring challenges are hurting them.

When you drill down and look at specific tech areas like cybersecurity, the numbers are even worse. Cybersecurity Ventures has predicted 3.5 million unfilled jobs by 2021. And there’s a lot at stake: An IBM study has shown the average financial hit an organization takes during a data breach has climbed to $3.92 million.

There is a way to increase employee skills, and by doing so, retain and even attract techies. The Society for Human Resource Management cites employee training and expansion of programs as one of the most effective remedies to bridge the skills gap. Ponemon Institute’s 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study notes employee training as one of the best ways to decrease the costs of a data breach.

And if you think that’s as obvious as stepping on a train, consider this. A study by analysts at Enterprise Strategy Group and Information Systems Security Association (ESG/ISAA) found nearly two-thirds of organizations actually don’t provide the training necessary to keep pace with business and IT risks.

Get onboard

Technology is ever-changing. Hackers are constantly introducing more sophisticated threats. Millennials, digital natives with shorter attention spans, are now the largest population of workers. Add to this the complex nature of IT and cybersecurity, and it’s clear traditional training and eLearning no longer cut it.

It’s time to get onboard with newer, more dynamic training approaches. Key to this is enlisting a cloud-based training system that accurately replicates IT environments. Through this, IT and security teams can practice with real-life scenarios in risk-free, isolated IT labs. And by enabling hands-on training—in more exciting environments that mimic on-the-job tasks—learning retention is increased.

Plus, the cloud is the great enabler. With most platforms, all that’s needed is a browser and internet connection to deliver virtual training whenever and wherever it’s needed. When you have a distributed workforce, when partners and product users are spread out across the globe, patching a product or showing a team how to handle the latest cyber threat often means acting quickly.

Further, with the cloud you can eliminate travel expenses and the need to ship training gear, reduce logistics, and keep employees in the office and more engaged in work. The potential for cost savings and productivity gains are extensive.

Right on time

Fast response can make heroes of your team; it can elevate customer satisfaction, mitigate the damage of a breach, get the CIO/CTO/CEO off your back, and more. And with virtual IT labs, you’ll empower your teams with dynamic learning that’ll grab their attention and get them performing at peak.

For instance, gaming scenarios have become very popular in both IT and cybersecurity training. According to research, 77 percent of US companies with interactive employee-training programs have seen a reduced number of attacks. Today, you’ll see Capture the Flag-type games at security events. Cyber ranges—once used only by the government—have also become common, enabling users to experience real-world threats in sandboxed environments, and counter-attack with proven policies.

Virtual IT labs were made to easily create and deliver such exceptional experiences.

The right platform can help instructors perform their jobs more effectively, too. For instance, some allow multi-step classes, a growing training trend amongst enterprises. These enable instructors to use different environments, tailored for specific steps, all contained within a single class. Moving from level to level with ease and without interruption is more logical, simpler, and facilitates retention.

Also, with some systems instructors can see what trainees are working on, collaborate via text, and provide over-the-shoulder assistance exactly when it’s needed most.

Close the gap

Some believe employees who gain additional skills may seek a position elsewhere. That’s always possible, but given today’s IT and cybersecurity jobs market, there are plenty of opportunities regardless. To forego essential training only lessens your team’s performance, can cause burnout, put you behind competitors and create vulnerabilities.

On the other hand, showing you’re invested in career development retains employees and increases motivation. It strengthens the skill level of your team and enables you to accomplish more with less. And when job seekers learn you’re committed to keeping skills up-to-date, and that you utilize advanced training technology, you’ll attract more and better quality candidates.

They’ll know you’re in it for the long run and they’ve found a place where they can grow.

Talent and skill shortages won’t be resolved overnight. The best approach is to “mind the gap” and close that void as much as possible by taking the right train and training steps.