The BBC recently reported that the UK is heading towards a “catastrophic digital skills gap disaster”. The problem was evident long before the pandemic hit. However, the sudden urgency for businesses to provide their services digitally only exacerbated the situation further. Added to that is the alarming statistic that 40% fewer young people are taking IT subjects at GCSE since 2015.
So what can we do to encourage not just school leavers but people of all ages to take an interest in technology? We suggest the following 8 step formula for employers to close the IT skills gaps within their business.
8 Step Formula to Fill The IT Skills Gap
1 – Define Your Business Goals
It’s good practice for all businesses to conduct a yearly audit of their current position vs where they want to be in 5 years. Only once this exercise is complete can they identify any obstacles that may stand in their way.
2 – Research Work Trends of the Future
Five years ago, we all had a vague idea of what artificial intelligence and virtual reality were. Although it took a global pandemic to make many companies realise their practical applications and put them to work.
Researching new ways of doing things can not only save your company time and increase profits in the long run. Not only that, but it might also position your business streets ahead of your competition.
3 – Conduct a Skills Audit
It’s one thing having the ambition to reach a particular goal but does your business have the technical capability to achieve it? Taking stock of your workforce skills is the first step to understanding what obstacles stand in the way of your business achieving its goals.
When conducting this exercise, don’t stop at the tech skills you need; soft skills are essential too. For example, it’s all very well having a team made up of the best available tech talent, but they won’t achieve much as a team if they lack communication skills.
4 – Identify Your Skills Gaps
Completing the steps above should paint a clear picture of the company’s business goals and its workforce skills. Once you have this information, you can work out where the skills shortages are within your business.
Given the current UK skills shortage, filing your IT skills gaps using traditional recruitment methods is unlikely to be the best strategy to adopt. Keep reading for alternative approaches to filing your business’s skill requirements.
5 – Develop Your Employer Brand
A strong employer brand enables businesses to communicate what working life is like in their organisation. When candidates can see this, it encourages them to want to work for you. So even if you may not have job roles available for their skills set at a given time, employer branding can attract a healthy stream of speculative applications.
Speculative submissions are often not applicable in the short term. However, they can be used to build candidate pools that often prove to be invaluable in future.
6 – Drive Skills Awareness
The most in-demand tech skills of 2021 are:
- Cyber Security & Cloud Security
- Cloud Computing
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
- Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
- Application Development & Software Engineering
- IT Support
- User Interface & User Experience Design
- Solutions Architecture
But how many young people who are about to make their GCSE choices understand what jobs in technology involve? Our kids have a better understanding of technology than their parents did at the same age. Of course, they all understand what an iPad is and what Instagram does but do they have any idea what a Machine Learning Engineer does or what Blockchain is for?
It’s almost impossible to develop an interest in something you don’t understand. Therefore, it’s no wonder that teenagers have no interest in studying Computer Science or Data Science. If companies have a future need to recruit niche tech skills, such as those listed above, they owe it to themselves to raise awareness of them now.
7 – Adopt an Open Door Policy
Does your company give talks in school assemblies, attend careers fairs, give informational interviews, offer work experience placements, internships or graduate schemes? If not, that needs to change if you want to close your skills gaps!
Too many employers are guilty of not offering young people the opportunity to learn about careers in the tech industry. Yet, these are often the same employers who complain that they can’t find the tech talent they need to fill their open vacancies.
8 – Invest in Skills Training
Employees gain more fulfilment from employers who focus on training entry-level individuals and promoting from within. Moreover, employees who feel they are working in meaningful jobs are more likely to stay and remain loyal.
Investing in training entry-level tech workers to reach the level your business needs may seem like an expensive option. But, on the other hand, how much will it cost in recruitment fees to hire already experienced tech professionals?
Nurturing young talent is a long term solution but it’s the key to closing the IT skills gap and creating a loyal workforce.
A Few Final Thoughts on Filling The IT Skills Gap
There’s an old saying that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. This may be a hard pill to swallow for employers in the tech industry, but the only way to solve the tech skills shortage is to work together to create opportunities for young people.
Our IT specialist recruitment consultants are here for you if you would like to discuss how we can work together to close your skills gaps.
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