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The growing skills gap in tech

The growing skills gap in tech
(Image credit: Pixabay)
About the author

Dominic Harvey is the Director at CWJobs.

Dominic Harvey, Director at CWJobs, discusses the ramifications of the current tech skills gap and what needs to be done in a Q&A with TechRadar Pro.

How can firms and organisations such as yourselves help inspire school leavers and students into tech based roles?

Firstly, organisations should actively promote their training and development schemes alongside the variety of the roles that fall under the umbrella of being ‘tech based.’ Then, companies should also highlight the array of tech apprenticeship programmes on offer today for emerging I.T. talent. 

The best way to inspire school leavers and students is by investing into a creative and exciting workplace cultures, which better attracts talent, and helps develop the next generation of tech workers. 

This investment will take both time and money, but if organisations have the capacity to support long-term planning, the prioritisation of next generation talent is likely to prove more efficient for them in future. 

What are the challenges facing tech firms to hire entry level talent with the right skills?

The fierce competition between companies looking to hire the best entry-level talent in the industry is widely reported. This exciting situation has emerged in the midst of UK tech hubs developing, specialist roles evolving, and an increase in the popularity of automation in various industries meaning there are more niche skillsets on the horizon.

With the limited entry-level talent the UK currently has, it’s crucial we encourage young people to enter the sector by promoting the variety of jobs available outside of generic IT jobs. There are a host of innovative, creative, progressive and thrilling roles that await the next generation of tech workers and we must play a role in addressing this before we miss out as an industry and a nation.

How could the education system help teach I.T. skills to the next generation of workers?

Despite how the year-on-year rise in the number of students studying Computing at A-level subject across the UK is very positive, the education system and government need to improve how they make subjects such as Computing appeal to both genders. Like the majority of STEM subjects, recent A-level results show a marginal increase in the number of girls taking Computing; however the subject firmly remains a male-dominated course. 

In order to better teach the next generation of tech workers, we must first focus on increasing the number of students developing their I.T. skills. The education system should promote the diversity of the possible future careers Computing can lead to outside any outdated stereotypes, as tech skills are now used in industries from sports to agriculture, from cars to movies, and are increasingly becoming a highly sought-after transferable skills.

What are the pros and cons of a high talent churn and low retention rates in the tech industry – and how this can even increase the competitiveness of companies?

The technology sector at times has almost become synonymous with a high staff turnover. Tech workers often move jobs in pursuit of promotion or for the chance to work with the newest equipment, in turn taking their specialist training and skillset with them. This is an issue that’s sometimes seen as problematic for businesses, particularly smaller ones, across the board. Nevertheless, the increased distribution of exciting and emerging talent throughout the industry is fantastic for the UK’s tech capability and provides a significant boost for our sector’s future. 

Businesses need to accept that staff turnover is a common part of daily business operations across many sectors, and look to use it as an opportunity to equip the next generation of talent. Personally, I would encourage tech firms to concentrate their efforts, not only on investing in the most up-to-date technology, but in establishing a workplace culture that lends to employees leaving on amicable terms, increasing the likelihood of them returning with an improved skillset in future, and creating a company image which is more likely to attract emerging talent due to the training they can provide.

Is upskilling staff through learning and development worth the risk of staff jumping ship?

Both upskilling and staff training are great short-term solutions to help businesses plug the skills gap internally. Whilst training at work helps staff handle and adapt to real-time challenges, we must look at the skills problem from a wider industry and an education-based perspective. On-the-job training provides workers with the opportunity to improve their day-to-day skills under the guidance of experienced senior team members. However we need to improve the focus on subjects like Computing at school and university and over time build our pool of young tech talent. 

If all organisations had the view that upskilling staff wasn’t worth the risk of workers leaving an organisation, many sectors would not have evolved to where they are today. One only has to look at legal, financial and accountancy professions for this. If anything, it’s great that more businesses are offering staff training and look to actively promote technical work by incentivising personal development for their staff.

What is the long term negative effect of less women entering tech and its impact on innovation in tech?

Currently, the industry remains largely male-dominated. This can isolate certain groups and lead to individuals believing that a career in technology might not be for them. It also means the sector can sometimes find itself in an echo chamber, where the same ideas are repeated, and heavily male orientated workplace cultures are considered ‘traditional’. 

We must therefore inspire and encourage a more diverse workforce, particularly women, as they have historically shied away from entering the tech sector. Bringing in more women will support both businesses and the wider industry with a multitude of different and new perspectives, as well as helping perhaps the most innovative sector (technology) evolve its most backward aspect.

 

Dominic Harvey is the Director at CWJobs.