Few business decision makers need convincing of the importance of IT in the digital workplace. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that unlike technology, skilled IT staff can be hard to come by. Moreover, the current IT skills shortage looks set to bite further. Here, we examine this unsettling trend.
How big is the tech skills shortage?
According to data from Statista, the technical and IT skills gap became more pronounced in the following areas during 2018:
- Big data and analytics development
- Technical architecture
- Security and resilience
- Enterprise architecture
In a survey of corporate leaders, nearly four out of five companies expected to increase the number of highly skilled positions over the coming years.
In contrast, only just over half of the respondents felt confident in their company’s ability to find sufficient qualified staff for these crucial roles. Where job descriptions require a mix of creative and STEM (scientific, technical, engineering and maths) ability, candidates are most in demand. The elusive skills combination in this so-called overlap category includes numerous IT roles such as software designers, programmers and business analysts.
A snapshot of the IT skills crisis in the UK
A recent bulletin published by the London-based Edge Foundation documented the technical skills shortages in the UK economy. In data centres, for instance, as many as one in five key staff were of European (non-British) or foreign nationality. Worryingly for recruiters, the effects of Brexit look likely to aggravate the situation, at least in the short term. As Britain departs from the European Union, jobs vacancies will probably be less attractive to skilled workers from mainland Europe.
All in all, an approximate tally of 600,000 computing vacancies combined with the general lack of technical qualifications and experience could cost the UK up to £63 billion a year in lost productivity, experts calculate. In unveiling these alarming figures, techUK (the London-based association and collective voice of 900 leading and innovative companies, many of them SMEs) mentioned that all their survey respondents had reported experiencing a shortage of skilled staff.
How do you solve the skills shortage?
When pressed to identify the potential cause(s), some of the respondents in the above surveys blamed political failure and the educational system for not teaching enough pupils relevant GCSE subjects. Conversely, others singled out a lack of retraining, reskilling and upskilling of adults already in the workplace and who might have something to contribute.
The top temporary fixes to deal with the skills shortages included using contract workers to fill gaps, engaging recruitment agencies, advertising for staff through professional social networks such as LinkedIn and using internal referral programmes. Unfortunately, however, these tactics do little to address long-term needs.
Oliver Newton, the Edge Foundation’s Director of Policy and Research and author of the above bulletin, cited an urgent need for technical and digital subjects to be at the core of the UK national curriculum. Mr Newton considered that education chiefs ought to address the inadequate and dwindling headcounts studying for IT and computing GCSEs as a matter of priority. Unfortunately, the numbers of pupils opting to study these subjects at GCSE level has been declining year on year since 2010.
Other suggestions included calls for governmental action via Ofsted (the Office for Standards Education, Children’s Services and Skills), which might review school gradings. It could also use its influence to showcase prosperous, creative careers to young people.
Is nearshoring a solution to the shortage?
While addressing the root cause(s), developing a long-term strategy and implementing plans will continue to be vital, another solution you might try short and long term is nearshoring, it works by tapping into an available pool of qualified, skilled and experienced staff who are available right now. In other words, careful IT outsourcing delivers solutions today, by deploying expert team workers who can hit the ground running.
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Depending on the company Nearshoring can help to provide competent, knowledgeable workers who make an early contribution and innovate IT within their industry.