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Amping Up Employee Tech Skills Is a Bargain With These 4 Tools

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Sharp tech talent is getting harder to find. In fact, new research suggests that American workers lag behind their international peers when it comes to tech skills.

Educational Testing Service surveyed adults 16-34 years of age across 22 countries measuring different competencies and published the results in January. A category called "problem solving in -rich environments" measured how well participants understood and effectively interacted with technology. U.S. millennials scored lower than 15 of the 19 countries participating in that category.

That's unfortunate, considering the rising need for tech skills and the availability of apps and e-courses for little to no cost. Tech training doesn't have to break the bank.

Here are some tools to quickly improve employee tech skills on a budget:

1. Peer-to-peer development apps

The 2014 TINYPulse Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture survey of more than 500 organizations found 66 percent of all employees saw no opportunities for professional development. Employees are more satisfied and engaged when they receive professional development and improve their , so providing tech training is a win-win for employees and employers.

A simple and efficient way to boost tech skills across an organization is to leverage the knowledge of employees. Use an app like Rallyteam to help employees connect and collaborate.

Related: What Tech Companies Are Doing to Bridge the Skills Gap

2. Online courses taught by experts.

Nearly eight in 10 middle-skill require digital skills, according data collected from 2007 to 2015 by Burning Glass Technologies analyzing more than 100 million job postings. Jobs that require digital skills have grown 2.5 times more rapidly than jobs that do not require spreadsheet or word processing savvy.

With this rapid growth, tech talent is often spread thin within an organization, leaving internal talent with little time to train others. If this is the case, or there aren't enough tech experts in-house, one of the fastest and easiest ways to improve employee tech skills is through online courses.

Udemy offers courses in a plethora of tech categories like systems operation, software engineering and IT certification. Courses are typically affordable, depending on the subject and instructor. Some are even free.

Related: Should You Invest in Techies or Train Non-Technical Employees?

3. Testing apps.

Testing supports long-term retention in , according to a study by the American Psychological Association published in November 2014. The study found the retrieval of information from memory produces better retention than re-reading the same information for the same amount of time.

Test employees to help them better retain the tech skills they learn on the job. This will improve employees' memory function so they can perform better in real-world application situations.

Use a testing app like Skillset, which allows users to create tests and track progress. The app is also pre-loaded with practice tests for popular certifications to prepare employees for success and help them get certified faster.

For employees who want to show off what they know, Skillset integrates with and automatically adds skills to profiles as they're acquired.

Related: Paying for That Employee's Class? Ask for a Mini Proposal First.

4. Mobile training tools.

There's no doubt that digital apps have an impact on a team's ability to communicate and collaborate, and that effect only increases with better accessibility via mobile. CIOs predict mobilizing key enterprise applications would increase productivity across the businesses by 36 percent, according to a Mobile Helix survey conducted in July 2013.

Employees already spend most of the day with their phones within reach. A phone can be an easily-accessible learning platform with an app like Mobl21. This app lets users take advantage of every free minute as a learning opportunity, delivering "learning bites" in the form of interactive study guides, flashcards and animations.

Related: 4 Data-Backed Reasons to Use Mobile in the Workplace

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