Companies of all sizes risk stagnation if they ignore the importance of technology skills
Much has been written recently about the technology skills gap worsened by the pandemic. Back in March 2021, the BBC reported that the UK is heading towards a “digital skills shortage disaster”.
What many people fail to realise is that it’s a problem that affects businesses of all sizes – not just those with computing at their heart.
Retail. Education. Medical. Finance. Construction. Insurance. Businesses across all industries are finding new ways to utilise technology, data science and automation. They achieve great things with these tools, but it has also created a technology skills gap. If this gap is left unchecked, businesses will be forced to scrap projects integral to their growth plans.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to future-proof your business.
First, what is the technology skills gap?
Simply put, the individuals entering the tech industry do not have the skills that modern companies require. There is a gap between what is being taught to them and what will be asked of them in a professional environment.
Technology gap statistics
- In 2019, the global shortage of cybersecurity specialists surpassed 4 million (ATD)
- UK businesses need to fill roughly 178,000 data-specialist vacancies (uk)
- Over the last two years, 46% of businesses have struggled to recruit for roles that require data skills (uk)
- Under half of UK employers (48%) believe young people are leaving full-time education with sufficient advanced digital skills (World Skills UK)
- One-in-10 computer science graduates are unemployed six months after leaving university (The Register)
Why does the gap exist?
Our education system has failed to recognise the importance of technology skills used across businesses today. It’s one thing to marvel about kids building apps and using tablets in their classrooms when you had to settle for dusty desktops and Microsoft Access. It’s another when you look at the university level of education that is meant to prepare the next generation of talent to enter the workforce. Sadly, the most exciting and rapidly evolving areas of tech are under-represented in higher education, including:
- Mobile application development
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
- IT security
- Cloud technologies
University courses provide a solid foundation of IT knowledge. However, graduates quickly face roles that require vendor or coding language-specific certifications. Young people are already under tremendous financial pressure when they leave university and promising talent can be discouraged from or simply unable to undertake this next stage of learning. This is something our own Ten10 Academy tackles head-on by providing accommodation and wellbeing support to all attendees while they undertake training through us.
Many young people don’t even get this far – they aren’t introduced to the wide range of possibilities that IT has to offer because their family, teachers and support network come from more traditional employment backgrounds. You need only look at the fact that STEM courses are still dominated by men and female attendance of these courses has stagnated since 2015. We’re proud to say we also combat this – 41% of Ten10 Academy Engineers are women.
How does it affect your business?
We’ve helped many businesses affected by the technology skills gap.
Not having adequate new talent entering the tech industry puts increased pressure on companies to retain their talent. Continuity is an invaluable factor in keeping the software and operations side of a business running smoothly. Lead developers can rarely be simply ‘plugged in’ when a new hire is needed, meaning the established staff who built and maintain your systems are worth their weight in gold.
The problem is when large companies expand they look to hire the best and brightest people available. That often means businesses like yours are prime targets to be raided. Larger companies can usually offer larger salaries and greater staff benefits to poach talent from competitors. The pandemic has also shown how productive and cost-effective remote work can be – so you may lose staff to a company in an entirely different city.
You may find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place:
- The rock: new talent lacking the expertise you need
- The hard place: struggling to retain your experienced staff
So what is the solution to the tech skills gap?
Assess your current systems
You need to know what specialisations your business relies on the most. Then you can determine how difficult it is to grow or replace members of your IT team. Just think: there are thousands of new graduates every year, but how many of them could you hire based on your current system requirements? The more specialised your systems, the harder it is to find the right fit for your team.
Prioritise training and development
Emphasising continuous learning has a proven ability to help retain talent. HR news reported that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if the business was investing in their career development. This doesn’t always mean staff completing online courses – you may be surprised just what your team can achieve if you give them the space, security and budget to experiment on their own projects between their work.
Get long-term support
Many people approach consultants when they have a problem. This may help deliver a standalone project but will only delay the effects of the technology skills gap. You need to work with a company that can keep your long-term success in mind and provide both advice and talent you can utilise. That talent needs to be diverse and confront the gender and racial biases that can limit the culture of a modern workforce.