Is drip-feeding graduates to the stressed tech industry every four years the best we can do for the talent gap?
The talent gap in the tech industry is turning into a talent chasm. Technology is advancing at an alarmingly fast rate, and with that comes countless jobs in cybersecurity, AI, data mining and software development.
While the number of jobs is great news for students interested in tech, and graduates just starting their careers, the strain on the industry itself as it waits for the talent to materialise is already creating problems.
Take the cybersecurity sector for example. With hacks and privacy breaches multiplying all the time, the lack of security professionals is a dangerous gap to have.
Four more years?
While there is a sense of urgency around filling the talent gap, fully qualified candidates with bachelor’s degrees take three or four years to be produced, and even then they don’t have the level of experience needed to plug the gap at more senior levels.
So, while the tech industry waits for the steady stream of graduates to catch up to its needs, other routes need to be explored.
Tech employers have already recognised the slow drip-feeding that four-year degrees bring and many are dropping those degrees as a minimum requirement. Does that mean they’re no longer needed? Absolutely not – it just means widening the talent pool.
Upskilling current talent
The Government is addressing the skills shortage too, with free ICT courses to help upskill employees.
This combines hands-on experience with a workforce that is already in the industry but doesn’t yet meet the talent needs.
Another route companies need to look at is apprenticeships. A lot of young tech talent is self-taught and only require minimal industry experience to get to the level that companies require.
Diversity is key
The key to narrowing the tech talent gap is, in a way, opening the floodgates. There is already a lot of discussion around the lack of diversity in the tech industry so looking for a diverse staff is important, but that goes for education as much as ethnicity, nationality and gender.
Are you always hiring the same level of college-educated tech professionals, of a certain age? Are you always looking for the same type of experience?
Sure, some minimum requirements will be essential for the successful candidate to be able to do the job, but, as a company in desperate need of talent, are you setting that bar higher than it needs to be?
For any company that is concerned about the expanding talent gap, they need to look at their own hiring process as well as their internal progression path.
Send in the freelancers
The alternative to upskilling the staff that companies currently have, or hiring new permanent members, is to look to the increasing pool of contractors and freelancers.
It is estimated that 50pc of the workforce will be freelancers by 2020, meaning that there are plenty of freelance tech workers that companies can hire while they wait for the graduates of tomorrow to come out of the woodwork.
Whatever way you look at it, the talent chasm within the technology sector certainly won’t close by itself, especially not with college graduates alone.
Yes, with increasing interest in tech jobs, there will be more graduates than before.
However, the skills shortage has already hit the danger zone and something needs to be done now, not four years down the line.