Plugging the UK’s tech skills gap

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With jobs becoming more digitised across all sectors in the UK, increasing numbers of technology roles are opening up, offering more specialised areas to work in than ever before. In fact, with job postings up 7% in 2018, according to CWJobs data, the demand for these roles is showing no signs of slowing down.

Companies need to change their strategy to attract top talent in the booming UK tech industry by addressing the burgeoning tech skills gap head on and encouraging young people to consider a career in the tech sector earlier.

Inspire from a young age

Whilst tackling the tech skills gap needs to be addressed at a young age within the national curriculum, it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of our education system to plug this shortfall. Many British businesses are taking the lead to engage and inspire the next generation of tech talent and help children realise their potential in this thriving sector. Fostering relationships with educational institutions, like schools and colleges, can help form a key avenue to raising awareness and excitement for careers in tech from an early age.

We want to open the eyes of younger people to the amazing career paths in tech and stoke excitement about the industry. The good news is many are doing this already across industry and government, through dedicated school events or social media. Nonetheless, more needs to be done to shift children’s thinking that technology is just coding or data, but in fact there is a fantastic array of opportunities.

Recognise candidate potential

Previously, businesses would choose candidates based purely on the experience they’ve gained, ignoring the potential of some candidates, which can be brought out with the right guidance. 

Harnessing their capabilities by prioritising on-the-job training for new recruits, as well as upskilling existing team members, ensures staff progress is in line with the business’s goals and objectives. Offering apprenticeships as standard to train up the best future talent and supporting their progress post-school or university is a great way to attract entry level talent into the industry.

Two HR people interviewing a woman

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Diversified approach to recruiting

The tech sector has work to do when it comes to gender equality, with research showing the specific wording of job roles can attract or deter women from applying. Having a diverse workplace strengthens businesses, with companies that have at least one woman on their board of directors outperforming those that don’t by 26%. It’s because any business needs to have different ideas if it’s going to succeed and having that diverse roster of staff ensures there will be alternative way of thinking for long-term viable strategies, as well as solving immediate problems. 

Aside from changing the wording of roles to make them more inclusive, another method some companies have started to use is boosting the number of returnships they offer. This is designed to help women that have taken a career break get back on to the ladder. Returnships act as a bridge and can be a great way to plug gaps for companies, while boosting the skills of workers themselves.

Address staff turnover

The turnover of tech workers can be attributed to people switching jobs in order to climb the career ladder, upskilling or receiving more training compared to their existing role. Offering quality training and investment and showing appreciation of staff through rewards, promotions and pay rises can be enough to prolong the time talent remain within a company as they feel recognised. 

If candidates do move on, businesses need to treat this as an opportunity to bring fresh talent into the team and embrace the new skills and valuable experience they likely to bring to the table. 

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Training and upskilling

Staff who receive training and mentoring in their career are more likely to remain in their role than those who don’t feel invested in. The tech sector is notoriously known to have a high churn of talent, making companies reluctant to increase investment in staff training. What companies fail to see here is that this very tactic might be what fuels the problem of high staff turnover rates. Training people offers businesses the chance to fill most skills gaps internally instead of relying on the right individuals to apply at a time when tech talent is scarce. On-the-job learning can be more effective than classroom-based tuition, offering real-time examples and scenarios with senior staff on hand for guidance. 

Of course, naturally staff will one day choose to move on. However, by upskilling existing staff across the board, this in turn will boost the quality of the skills in the industry itself, which is good for everyone. Those that do leave are more likely to come back in the future, if they felt they were treated well and invested in before they left.

What happens next?

To tackle the current skills shortage, it’s important to ensure interest in technology is cemented at a younger age. This requires a joint effort from businesses and the government to take the skills gap seriously, drawing up suitable policies which place importance on IT/tech qualifications as standard. Students need to spend much more time in school actively practicing the higher-level technology skills needed for job readiness because roles in the future will require the next generation to be increasingly tech savvy.

Dominic Harvey, Director of CWJobs

Dominic Harvey

Dominic Harvey, Director at the UK’s leading tech job board CWJobs, has worked in the recruitment industry for 22 years. After initially working on Marketing and PR Week titles he moved to the IT recruitment consultancy field. 15 years ago, Dominic joined Totaljobs Group (owner of CWJobs) and spent seven years launching two offices and growing their regional sales teams, before moving to his current position as Sales Director of the tech brand. He lives in Newark with his wife and two daughters.