Traditionally, the technology sector has prioritised computing and engineering graduates for recruitment, considering technical expertise above all else. Yet a number of factors today suggest that technology companies should adopt a more flexible approach to building out the workforce in order to remain at the forefront of innovation.
The growing IT skills shortage in Europe continues to be a pressing problem for the technology industry. While the number of digital jobs based around IT is growing by about 100,000 every year, the amount of highly-skilled graduates is failing to keep pace. This has, in fact, become such a concern that the European Commission has recently launched a "grand coalition" to ensure that technology firms, which rely heavily on fresh talent to further their development, remain competitive.
At the same time, however, we’re seeing fresh talent capable of filling this gap emerge in very different, non-traditional ways. Young people nowadays grow up as digital natives. They have a natural aptitude to grasp new technologies in ways that previous generations would have found more taxing.
What’s more, the internet has opened them up to so many different ideas and ways of doing things that they have often developed a skillset that makes them suited to a wide range of careers – without necessarily having the formal qualifications. So while traditional, education-driven talent pools are shrinking, new sources based on an inherent, tech-savvy knowledge and understanding are surfacing all by themselves.
Buyers of technology are also craving more business-focused interaction. As conversations with end users gravitate increasingly towards business benefits and the bottom line, there is an increasing requirement for sales teams to be able to translate nuts and bolts into solutions to business problems. This approach demands a range of business-focused skills, rather than just tech expertise. As such, employers are starting to consider a much wider variety of traits and abilities as part of the recruitment process: enthusiasm and willingness to learn, as well as softer skills such as being able to communicate effectively, are now just as important as specific technical qualifications, if not more desirable.
These factors combined are creating real opportunities for the technology industry that can be realised by those companies willing to adapt their approach to hiring and talent development.
In response to this, we’ve designed a programme that allows us to get the best of both worlds. On hiring new recruits, of course we look for people who are trained in IT and technology. But we’re also looking at a much wider skillset, hiring graduates that don’t necessarily have a technical background, but that bring other qualities to the business. On our graduate scheme, for example, we have people with degrees in economics, business and even sports science. By widening the net beyond technology qualifications, this allows us to capitalise on the variety of skills that people from different walks of life bring.
Despite the IT skills shortage, the technology industry has a wealth of talent on its doorstep. There is huge interest in technology among young people today, and a great aptitude for creation and understanding of new ideas and innovations. What’s needed is a change in perception in the industry itself.
Employers need to consider that non-technology graduates can bring valuable new skills into the business. Similarly, young people should be given the confidence that they can consider a technology career, even if they don’t have a technology degree.
In this day and age, technology is a very worthy and exciting career to be getting into, and we’d all be wise to remember that characteristics like flexibility, enthusiasm and an ability to learn are the key to staying on top.
Michael Bayer is president of EMEA at Avaya. He is writing for V3 as part of our Make IT Better campaign to improve computing learning in schools.
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