Grow Your Own Talent: How Employers Can Work Around the IT Skills Shortage

  • July 3, 2019

As we mentioned in a previous article about how Brexit will impact the UK IT jobs market (and we still don’t have any kind of resolution on that) there is a well-publicised nationwide skills shortage.

Charitable organisation Nesta, whose mission is simply to back innovations for the common good, produced a “skills taxonomy” last year in order to achieve clarity and insight into the UK skills demand. It is a reliable method of measuring skills supply vs demand and helps employers, the workforce and students measure the value of skills and the ones they should be obtaining to make career progress, and better the economy overall. It makes very interesting reading.

The taxonomy was produced by analysing 41 million job ads and using machine learning to discover 10,500 unique skills that have been compiled into a triple-layered, tree-like structure. Each one of the 10,500 unique skills fits within 135 skills clusters, branching off from 35 groups, which are held within one of 6 broad skills clusters.

The results demonstrate the challenge facing tech employers today

The taxonomy shows not only the exact cluster of skills we all need for the jobs we do and provides data on the demand for these skills clusters. This provides the basis of a measurement of change in demand and trends over time.

Out of the 135 skills clusters, Nesta published the top ten most demanded skills and found that software development came in at number 3 and business analysis and IT projects at number 8.

This demonstrates that the technology sector is one of the worst hit by the skills shortage, supporting the evidence from surveys like the one by Forbes which states that 9 in 10 employers are struggling to find skilled workers. 50% of respondents cited a shortage of talent, and the same number stated that the skills training requirements of their current workforce as the biggest hurdle they were facing in IT transformation.

What’s behind the IT skills shortage?

There are multiple reasons behind the IT skills shortage, but basically, it can be summed up as a perfect storm of extremely rapid advancements in technology, an ageing population and an increasing need for tech staff across all industries leading to demand outweighing supply. This cocktail of conditions has created a vacuum within the IT talent pool, leaving many organisations fighting for the same talent, and often priced out of the market when it comes to attracting and retaining the workforce with the necessary skills.

As if that perfect storm culminating in a skills crisis isn’t enough to contend with, access to EU talent is set to reduce as Brexit almost certainly means restricted movement through Europe, so the UK must look to their current workforce and to future generations to bridge the widening skills gap.

So just how should employers be addressing the skills gap?

Previously, we discussed how tech giants need to work together for the betterment of the entire sector and the greater good to improve access to IT careers and boost skills within the population, but what can organisations do on an individual basis to address the skills gap? Well, there’s only one way to upskill, and that’s to learn – employers need to provide training opportunities.

Investing in a robust in-house training programme gives organisations the chance to look past tech skills and opt for candidates with the right soft skills, and put them on the path to advancing their hard skills on the job. Salary increases can be worked into the KPIs to ensure that as employees progress, the value of their skills is reflected in their package and that you aren’t simply upskilling your competition’s future workforce.

Flexibility and innovation will provide opportunity

As part of this ethos, it is important to be flexible as an employer and give people the chance to reinvent themselves by looking at their transferable skills. Being less rigid about exact experience or expertise can lead to innovation and opportunities for businesses and individuals that may previously have been undiscovered in a more linear jobs market.

More than anything, employers must encourage lifelong learning amongst all staff, and make keeping up with the race for skills part of their ongoing agenda, as technology continues to advance exponentially, we must strive to keep up.

Is your organisation noticing the squeeze of the IT skills shortage? Are empty desks affecting your productivity and limiting your potential? Contact us to see if we can work together to fill the gap.

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