Closing the technology skills gap

The need for more skilled employees in technology roles, particularly cybersecurity, has firms re-evaluating their recruitment strategies to attract and retain employees

For many people, hardly a day has passed since the early days of the pandemic that have been free of video calls. Whether at work, at school or at home, screen-based interactions have defined the last two years.

Not only has hybrid working forced companies to think harder about their cybersecurity, but job hopefuls have had to contend with a different working world than has ever been seen before.

“While there will always be a need for mid- and senior-level talent, it’s important to also be mindful of how recruitment is handled for junior level roles. Given that many new graduates have spent the last two years of their education behind a screen, some may not feel as prepared to enter the workforce,” says Daniele Grassi, chief operating officer at global talent and reskill training provider mthree.

The problem, however, is that while companies may now have the required infrastructure, systems and software in place to support a changed working model, they don’t necessarily have the right staff to run them. The great resignation of 2021 resulted in millions of people quitting their jobs because they were dissatisfied with them and wanted to pursue other opportunities. One of the worst hit industries was technology, with 3.6m job openings listed in the US alone in 2021, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association Group. It’s predicted that there will be 178,000 new positions created in 2022.

The fact is that there’s a huge skills gap in the market and it’s widening by the day. That’s evidenced in Salesforce’s 2022 ‘Global Digital Skills Index Report,’ which found that 76% of respondents didn’t feel ready for the future of workplaces and only 14% said they had advanced knowledge in encryption and cybersecurity skills.

Exacerbating the skills gap in digital and technology roles is the lack of diverse candidates both seeking and being employed in those positions. In its ‘Diversity in Tech’ research, mthree found that ‘71% of young tech workers have felt uncomfortable in a job because of their gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background or neurodevelopmental condition.’

But the need for talent is seeing companies source candidates from a broader pool than ever before, making the need for equality in technology a greater need in terms of talent attraction and retention.

Grassi says: “The hardest roles to recruit for are mid and senior level talent as everyone is vying for their attention. Roles in cyber security, cloud computing, data analytics and software engineering and development are greatly in demand across all industries.”

And because many companies are still relying on outdated hiring practices, they’re missing out on people from other backgrounds who have valuable skillsets to bring to the job. Doing so limits them to a narrow talent pool, thereby overlooking a wealth of diverse junior- and entry-level candidates.

mthree helps businesses overcome this challenge. In partnering with them, mthree presents companies with candidates who are ready to learn and join their workforce, backed up with a top-quality training and support system. “Leaders can spend less time training as junior talent are equipped with the knowledge to start contributing to the team early on,” says Grassi of the benefits of this strategy.

After analysing the company’s needs and employing the graduates on their behalf, mthree supplements their education by training them on technology they are currently using to equip them with the right knowledge and skills to hit the ground running.

Only 8% of companies say they are not planning to recruit entry-level talent at all in the coming year. That means the market for skilled junior tech professionals is incredibly competitive.

Tapping into diverse pools of talent – particularly considering that hybrid working has allowed for greater geographic diversity in the talent pool – can help alleviate this competition. The ‘Diversity in Tech’ study shows that the talent is out there. There was little discrepancy between ethnic groups as to their exposure to technology careers at school. And, as 37% said this was the main motivator toward digital careers, a more diverse workforce is achievable.

However, one of the common misconceptions still apparent among young people is that technology doesn’t offer a future-proof career path. Three-quarters of survey respondents agreed with this assessment. That makes job-based skills development all the more important as learning at work can help combat this misconception.

It’s vital that businesses recruit junior employees while continuing to develop their own in-house talent to aspire to more senior roles. Companies need to harness their eagerness to learn and make a difference to enable them to fulfill key positions and progress their careers, thus closing the skills gap.

One of the root causes for the lack of diversity in technology is not having received the encouragement to pursue a career in technology from an early age, particularly among women, with only 35% saying they felt encouraged to do so by their school. A further 42% said they weren’t given any information or resources to learn about such opportunities. It’s a similar story for Asian and Black people, with only 19% and 29% respectively saying they were far more likely to follow a technology career as a result of being encouraged by their school.

“Those who don’t have adults they look up to in technology or big corporations may have a bit of imposter syndrome and question their lack of ability to perform,” says Grassi. “With mthree, we help remove some of the hesitancy and help them realize how strong their skill sets are and that they can make important contributions within Fortune 500 companies. Sometimes, all it takes is one person expressing that you can do it to help them make the leap.”

Other barriers include people’s doubts over their own qualifications, skills and expertise, thinking they won’t feel welcome, or discrimination in the recruitment process. That suggests many companies are struggling to establish an inclusive working environment.

The solution is for schools and businesses to ensure everyone receives equal opportunities and encouragement to learn about technology as a career path and the qualifications needed, as well as promoting available roles and attending job fairs. Role models can also play a key role in encouraging women and Black people, in particular, to choose a career in technology, while firms need to do more to address problems inherent within their own culture to improve retention rates and put their diversity and inclusion strategies into action to meet their goals.

The Reskill programme offered by mthree trains existing employees and tackles any biases by opening up businesses to a new demographic. Its alumni hire-train-deploy model saw 35% female and 50% black, Asian and minority ethnicity employees placed in 2020.

The benefits of having a diverse workforce are clear. Numerous studies have shown that having a team of people from a wider range of backgrounds, ages, genders and ethnicities drives greater creativity, productivity and profit margins.

And, tackling the skills gap now, will only be a benefit to companies in future. Grassi says: “At the rate that technology is evolving, we only expect the skills gap to widen even further if education doesn’t evolve to become more in line with the needs of the industry. That’s why we feel that the work we’re doing at mthree is so important to ensuring that both companies and junior level talent are able to thrive.”

With the rapid rate at which technology is evolving, the skills gap is set to widen even further. But by educating, enabling and empowering junior talent to thrive, this shortage problem can be addressed in the long-term.

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