Tackling the tech skills gap from the roots

In recent research by Equinix, over two-thirds of IT decision-makers in the UK view a shortage of IT skills as one of the main threats to their business. Nick Stapleton, Managing Director, ETB Technologies believes we need to act early to attract our youngest minds to a career in tech.

It’s not enough to just grumble about the broadening skills gap. Companies must step up, put their money where their mouth is and boost their support for young people. The alternative could be devastating.

Companies should ask themselves if they are doing enough to raise awareness of their need for tech talent, and whether they are emphasising the considerable financial benefits to young people. For example, according to a 2021 report by TechNation, the average tech salary is up to 50 per cent higher than the average for all vacancies in the UK and is still increasing.

The other problem, of course, is the sector’s failure to attract more female talent and according to TechNation, just 26 per cent of the UK tech workforce are women. We can see that reflected in our own workforce, where we have women in our sales, HR, and customer service teams but few in technical roles. That’s due not to our recruitment choices but simply to a lack of female applicants. School-age girls are much less likely to focus on computing science than boys. A recent PwC study also shows that just 3 per cent of women say a career in technology is their first choice. We must do better as a sector if we are to see it thrive in the future.

This isn’t just about diversity though; the skills gap is stifling business growth too. If you take most of the female population out of the pool of potential talent available to the industry, it’s hardly surprising there’s a skills drought.

How do we tackle this? One of the things we need to address is the sector’s image problem. Many school pupils think of tech as something that’s boring or geeky, or that you need to be very academic, or at least, good at maths, to be successful in tech. That simply isn’t true. Then there are studies that show that the way boys and girls approach subjects they like, and their level of confidence differs from an early age. There may also be a view amongst parents that tech isn’t as prestigious a career choice as, say, law or medicine. A lack of computing teachers meaning that the subject isn’t always being taught in schools across the country isn’t helping either.

Businesses might not be able to directly solve the problem of teacher recruitment, but they can help educate young people that there’s a wide variety of careers available in tech. We can let them know that we need creative, innovative minds that can come up with new ideas. We need marketers, HR people, sales gurus, and finance experts; the paths into the sector are many and varied.

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