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Tackling the Tech Skills Shortage: Mike’s Take

After an enjoyable visit to Tech South West Skills Summit event in Bristol last week, it got me thinking about what needs to be done to address the current tech skills shortage. Nearly every business that I meet with tells me the same thing; The tech skills shortage is a major barrier to growth. Here, I have collated my top tips for employers that want to tackle the tech skills shortage within their own business. There is no quick fix, but some shifts in mindset and approach could make that gap a little bit smaller whether in the short or longer term…

Flex the tech

The odds of finding a JavaScript Developer in Bristol with Node and React skills for £35K are not great. You could be waiting a good while. In truth, if anyone had strong abilities with these sought-after skills, they would most likely be happily contracting at £450 per day from the comfort of their own bedroom or nicely tucked up in a £55K permanent role.

If you’re not offering jaw-dropping salaries then it might be time to get a little more realistic, rip up that tired old tech shopping list and hire on culture, passion and problem solving abilities. A genuinely good developer can pick up a different syntax in a matter of weeks or even days so you could potentially be missing out on some real talent – instead waiting it out, losing money, valuable time and worse still, hair.

Cross-train your current staff

If you’re fortunate enough to have a decent sized IT team, then it’s worth considering whether anyone would be keen to transition into a development role. A small outlay in training costs for someone you know and trust (plus they’ll know the systems and be familiar with the business already) it could be a fantastic chance for both parties, and it could be easier for you to then back-fill their previous position.

Grow your own

Have you looked into taking on apprentices? There are plenty of juniors, career-changers and techies looking for a return to the market who are chomping at the bit for a chance to prove themselves. And there’s a good few local training academies and training companies to source them from. Building an in-house academy or scheme could help future-proof your business and create a loyal, diverse and dedicated team. Offering them flexible working, mentoring, ongoing training and a fair wage will keep them engaged, happy and productive.

And consider being a part of the solution

In order to shrink the skills gap, we need to start with the next generation of talent: our children. This is a long term issue that starts in schools – where our children have little to no knowledge of what a career in IT/technology can entail.

I’ve recently heard of some encouraging initiatives where local tech companies are talking to classes about why it’s so great to be a developer/techie and the amazing products that you can build from coding. We are planning on doing our bit in that context too, we’ll have more to share on that topic soon. There’s no doubt that we need to get role models out there to inspire the next generation to learn how to code, innovate and invent. One of your employees may also be happy to give up a little bit of their time to make this happen…

Elaine Brown has been a key part of a successful venture called Do Cyber; a group established to bring together cyber representatives from employers, professional bodies, delivery partners, education providers and academia from Bristol, Bath and the West of England region.

A nice note to end on, sharing what the ‘Do Cyber’ initiative has already achieved and is set to achieve next:

“We work collectively, to help create, raise awareness and deliver more cyber opportunities to young people in order to help fulfil skills gaps and meet future skills needs. We launched with a Cyber Taster Day for Schools event on the 4th December, which 20 schools attended. We are now working closely with these schools to provide activities and opportunities to develop their interest in cyber and learn the necessary skills as well as to set up / identify regional career and training pathways into the profession. Feedback from the schools has been really enthusiastic with schools keen to do more and agreeing that it was a great opportunity for the students”

– Elaine Brown