How to Solve the Skills Shortage in the UK’s Technology Sector
Robert Walters, totaljobs, and Jobsite have published a report showing that the UK’s technology sector is struggling with a skills shortage. And there are worries that this problem is going to worsen due to Brexit. However, the authors of the report have spelled out how technology companies can overcome these challenges. Technology employers were surveyed about the issue and asked what strategies they would use in order to fill the skills gap.
The report highlights that various factors, including “an aging workforce” and “lasting effects of the recession”, have impacted the UK’s technology industry. Moreover, new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) mean that IT professionals with specific skills need to be hired. But hiring managers are faced with the challenge of trying to fill the gap in these skills.
The job sites surveyed 550 professionals in the technology sector, and the majority (89%) anticipate skills shortages to some extent. And 24% say the skills shortages will be significant. Other key findings were made in the report, including:
- The top skills in demand in the industry are cybersecurity (54%), business intelligence and data management (41%), and software development (35%).
- Only 10% of professionals surveyed believe the UK’s technology sector is prepared to compete on an international level.
- 81% of employers expect their workload to increase throughout 2018, with over 4 in 10 expecting a significant increase.
- 50% of those surveyed say the recruitment process takes far too long.
There are also differences in skills shortages depending on region and type of role. For example, professionals expect most skills shortages to happen in the East of England, with mid/management level positions to be the most acutely affected. The report states:
“There are significant disparities for skills specific to the technology industry – the technical skills in demand by employers and perceived to be the most integral by professionals are not currently being matched by a skilled candidate pool.
As highly qualified candidates are in short supply, businesses will have to develop creative recruitment strategies to ensure they are attracting top tier professionals in an increasingly competitive market.”
Lee Allen, Sales Director at Jobsite, said:
“Although general professional skills are still valued by businesses, industry-specific skills are what many employers are looking for first in potential staff.”
In terms of qualifications, 44% of employers say specific sector qualifications or training are essential to ensure that employees possess core technical skills and can further adapt to emerging technologies in the industry. 34% state that a university degree in a relevant subject is important to the technology sector and the same numbers believe experience is more important than qualifications. Meanwhile, the top challenges that businesses face when recruiting technological professionals include:
- Candidates lacking sufficient experience for the role
- Candidates lacking the appropriate technical skills
- Candidates lacking the relevant soft skills
- Too many underqualified candidates applying for roles
- Lengthy recruitment process
- Candidates having salary expectations that are too high
Filling the Skills Gap
Employers are tackling the effects of skills shortages in different ways. When asked how they would deal with increasing workloads, hiring managers say they would:
- Hire interim professionals to temporarily fill skills shortages (64%)
- Increase the workload across the current team (45%)
- Upskill junior staff to take on additional workload (45%)
- Outsource to a specialist technology provider (44%)
- Look for innovative automation or non-people-focused solution (34%)
- Prolong recruitment until a suitable candidate is found (30%)
- Decline jobs or projects (11%)
Given the difficulties in hiring top talent, tech companies have to take strategic approaches in order to solve skills shortages. Many employers are realizing, for example, that candidates are looking for non-monetary benefits when applying for a job. Technology professionals want a competitive salary but they also value flexible working, opportunities to learn additional skills, and quick career progression. In addition, the top five strategies that businesses use to tackle skills shortages include:
- Using temporary or contract workers to fill the skills gap (63%)
- Engaging recruitment agencies (53%)
- Using internal training to upskill and/or moving internal staff into more senior positions (51%)
- Using external training to upskill current staff (38%)
- Advertising for staff through LinkedIn (38%)
Other strategies for filling the skills gap are using an internal referral programme and looking to hire IT professionals who might be willing to relocate in the UK. Wayne Bennett, Associate Director at Robert Walters, underlines:
“A diverse and comprehensive attraction strategy is key to reach both active and passive technology candidates. Employers engaging with candidates on multiple platforms and distinguishing their employment offers are more likely to source the top industry talent.”
Professionals and employers are also in general agreement about the most effective strategies for ensuring a sustainable talent pipeline in the tech sector. The majority argues that the best ways to promote technology careers would involve companies partnering more effectively with local universities and being more open to transferable skills. Other options include offering more work placements to students, educating students on potential career paths, and offering apprenticeships for professionals.
If employers pay attention to the specific needs of the region they operate in, while taking a multileveled approach to skills shortages, then they will be able to attract (and retain) the most highly skilled professionals.
About the author: Sam Woolfe writes for Inspiring Interns, which specializes in sourcing candidates for internships and graduate jobs. He is particularly interested in self-development, psychology, mental health, and the future of work. Most of all, though, Sam is passionate about helping people find work that is meaningful and fulfilling. You can follow him on Twitter and find more of his work at www.samwoolfe.com.