The tech skills shortageby Celina Bledowska, on 7 September 2022
We’ve all seen the dire BBC headlines, and the accompanying frightening stats. In May Tech Monitor suggested that job vacancies in the IT sector were up by 191%. There really is a problem in our industry but maybe employers and recruiters should look beyond the norm? Norfolk Developers did some digging.
Reading the BBC article more closely, the piece is examining general IT skills across the country as well as more highly qualified roles. Two million UK tech vacancies last year in the industry and a further 12 million workers lack ‘essential digital skills’, shouts the article. Though, this could apply as much to a lack of basic office computing skills as a shortage of devs.
As a community comprising 1600 members with almost 500 on our very active Discord, if we know anything, it’s about working within the tech industry.
A degree is not a prerequisite
With universities and FE colleges about to open their doors for the new term, not everyone who has a passion for programming and tech will be entering these groves of academe. Discussing this with those within our community, many of these specialists tried uni & college but this wasn’t a fit for them so they left full time education. Some just didn’t think that a degree was necessary for a field in which they were already skilled.
Alex Scotton, has never graced a uni or a college with his presence as a student. He had the self taught skills but as he says himself, “my journey into the industry took a long time.” Alex has been writing code since he was 10 and kept on programming.
In common with many within the tech community, imposter syndrome played a large part in his initial lack of success and it was down to a friend’s encouragement that Alex was able to gain a foothold in the industry working in a digital marketing team. From this start he was able to progress rapidly in the industry. Today he works as a freelance web developer,a consultant and organises the annual nor(DEV): conference.
A web developer’s point of view
Talking to web developer Louise Foster, she says, “I'm completely self taught. I had an online shop between 2010 and 2017 and I ended up realising I got more of a kick working on the website than I did getting the orders in (the orders were great though as well).”
A degree works for some
NorDev programmer, Jake Saterlay, has a degree in computer science. In discussion Jake suggested, “You’ll learn a lot about the basics of programming [at college], enough to get you your first job, and then after that you’ll get all the experience you need to accelerate your career”
He also believes that you learn many other skills at uni that’ll help in your career.
“I think an aspect that you get from university that you don’t get from being self taught is working in a team. I had various different group projects at university which helped teach me about key project management skills like delegation and communication.”
A recruiter’s’ thoughts
Speaking to Rokker Consulting’s Jim Marshall, about the issue, he gives reasons for tech skills shortage and states, “this is the result of an exponential rise in demand (many more traditional firms, by the nature of how they operate, sell/market and deliver products and services, are now principally technology firms), reduced immigration and a tight overall labour market.”
Jim continues by suggesting,
“the skills shortage has been exacerbated by the fixed mindset of some hirers; sometimes not even taking the time to look at the backgrounds of their best technologists (many of whom entered the industry by non-traditional routes)”.
“I am a strong advocate of hiring on potential over proof. The key is creating hiring systems and attitudes that adequately index aptitude, curiosity and growth mindset.”
Looking to the future
Amber Hunt managing director of consultancy Marshall Wolfe believes;
“as technology evolves at a rapid rate, the challenge is hiring and retaining people with these new skills. Whilst companies continue to seek experienced hires, they now find themselves repositioning to attract new digital talent in order to balance the skills shortage – leveraging this by promoting upskilling, retraining and softer skills, alongside apprenticeships, internships and graduate schemes.”
In a bid to deal with the tech skills shortage, Amber is trying to “explore with our clients how they can create a sustainable pipeline of talent for the future and thrive in the current technology ecosystem.”
She is a keen advocate of a “more inclusive approach to recruitment and open doors for people from diverse backgrounds.”
Alternative routes into tech
Bootcamps and coding camps are an alternative route into the tech industry. Codebar in Norwich, organised by Holly Allen and Rose Bonner, is one way with skilled mentors and experts on hand for advice.
Another route is Norwich’s Tech Educators, where Leanna Lucas, with a background in retail and film has just gained the skills to land her first job as a web developer for Aviva. Talking to Tech Educator’s MD, James Adams, he recognises many of the difficulties of those trying to enter the industry.
“What we are trying to achieve at Tech Educators isn’t about saying a university CompSci degree isn’t of value, of course it is, but that’s one path. It’s about offering fair access to all, access to those who don’t want to learn in the “traditional” academic environment, who feel that three years is too long, or are worried about high and increasing costs of tuition over that period.”
Talking about funding, Tech Educators recently applied for funds via the LEP. James confirmed,
“We had the recent LEP led tender for government funded spaces, where not one fully instructor led course was selected. Some learners can do the self paced approach, some need an instructor, again for me, it’s about fair access to all, if we are going to truly drive outcomes that we would call a success.”
James firmly believes that fair access for all can solve many of the industry’s skill shortage problems.
It’s not that there isn’t the talent - there is but it needs to be fostered and encouraged. Talking to so many, what becomes very clear is that those in the tech industry have taken different routes to achieve their goals and all of these needed to be acknowledged and nurtured.
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