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4 out-of-the-box solutions to the IT skills shortage

The demand for IT skills is rising at an unprecedented rate as businesses catch on to the fact that in order to drive profits and stay ahead of the competition, they need to embrace new technologies. However, a recent report from TotalJobs found that employers are increasingly struggling to fill entry-level jobs as graduates and school leavers often lack the key skills they need for the roles.

The positive news is that in the tech industry, work is being done to boost hi-tech skills at an entry level. For example, new Degree Apprenticeship qualifications will be taught in England from next September to help provide people with the skills needed for a wide range of digital jobs. This is something IT departments should consider becoming involved with but they need to work with their wider organisation to play a bigger role in plugging the IT skills gap and helping tomorrow’s talent, today’s undergraduates, to enter the world of work.

So what can IT departments do to ensure they find the right tech talent?

1. Look beyond IT graduates

Our experience has shown that the routes into an IT career are as varied as the number of job roles available. In fact, many of our clients still expect applicants to hold a degree. However our own research of graduates suggests that IT degrees are not necessarily required for a career in this field. We found that more than a third of graduates in IT roles had not taken an IT-related course, and most interestingly, developers were within the top three IT roles filled by graduates who had not studied IT. This is promising for many businesses that may be experiencing a skills gap and are struggling to find talent to plug this. It suggests that organisations may be able to overlook a lack of technical know-how in favour of applicants with other desirable attributes that show a willingness to be trained in the necessary skills.

2. Equip employees with business-ready skills

The question is, how useful and transferable to the workplace are the skills young people are gaining at university? After all, we’re working in an industry where new technologies are constantly being released and with a university degree taking three or four years to complete, how can we ascertain that the curriculum is going to be aligned with a business’ needs? Even when university course contents are reviewed annually, significant changes are not being made frequently enough, and this can have a negative impact on how readily-employable young people might be. In this case, it falls to the employer to help their new employees to develop the skills and experience required for the workplace.

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Business ready? I was (just) born ready[/caption]

3. Identify specific tech skills in demand

It is important that both IT professionals of the future and the businesses that recruit them are aware of the specific skills gaps that the industry is likely to face. For example, we are finding that cloud computing specialists are in particularly high demand in the UK. Our research shows a 12 percent increase in the number of Cloud contractor vacancies in the last 12 months. At the same time, Cloud salaries in London have grown more than those outside the city at a rate of approximately 6 percent, suggesting that skills shortages in the region are behind the hikes. Statistics like these are beneficial in helping organisations to identify where they will need the staff, where they will find these individuals and also, how much training they may need for that role.

4. Become an employer of choice

It is important for employers to make for themselves an attractive proposition to attract and retain talent. After all, today’s graduates have seen the older generation struggle to climb the corporate ladder, leaving many disengaged and looking to other avenues, such as freelance work and entrepreneurship, rather than joining an organisation as a permanent employee. Therefore, regardless of size and industry, employers have to be realistic about how they are perceived by young people and consequently work harder to be more attractive and deemed as an employer of choice.

Companies that do not adequately develop their Employer Brand risk falling behind and losing competitive advantage and as the shortage of IT talent grows, companies will have to compete not just on pay, but also on benefits, working practices and reputation.

Tomorrow’s talent, today’s problem?

We predict that the average business will increasingly require a significant proportion of their workforce to specialise in some form of technology, so it’s important they start future-proofing their business from now and that IT professionals in turn ensure they are future-proofing their careers.

By Geoff Smith, managing director of Experis. You can follow him on Twitter @GeoffExperis

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