IT skills shortage: career changers are the solution

With e-skills UK, the sector skills council for the IT industry, citing the need for 140,000 new employees every year in the UK’s IT and telecoms sector, and UK applications for IT-related degrees tumbling by 50% over the past five years, the incentive for employers to entice the right candidates has never been greater. But with heightened competition and limited resources, should employers be more open-minded in the skills and capabilities they look for? Bob Bradley, chief executive at IT training provider Computeach argues that employers should seek and support career changers.

Employers are sceptical about employing trainees, recently qualified, or inexperienced workers to fill vacancies for IT-based positions. But currently, the alternative for many businesses is having essential vacancies left unfilled while the search continues for the Holy Grail that is the skilled, qualified, available and willing IT professional.

IT employers need to change their approach to recruitment to match current industry conditions. They need to look at alternative options, rather than chasing around in circles after the limited number of IT graduates. It is common practice in many parts of business to recruit for aptitude and attitude and then train to build skills so why are many IT employers so reluctant to give enthusiastic and capable career changers a chance?

Government has openly recognised the IT skills shortage, which affects roles from junior helpdesk technicians to programmers and web designers, but steps taken to tackle the issue have been slow. The proposed European Blue Card work permit, designed to encourage skilled foreign workers to help plug the skills shortage, does offer one option. But when there are people here in the UK, with the potential to fill much needed vacancies and the desire to change career, it seems logical to help them gain the necessary skills.

Employers looking to recruit IT professionals in 2008 need to change their outlook and approach. They need to recognise the virtually untapped resource that is the career changer. Recruiting somebody who is funding their own IT training towards a recognised qualification, and thus demonstrating determination and enthusiasm for the industry, is one way to plug the gap.

This is a mutually beneficial solution as even the salary for someone starting in the IT industry can be attractive to the career changer. The employer gains a good employee at low cost, and the employee gains a fantastic foot in the door of the industry.

While this could be seen as an investment by employers, many are delighted to find that a highly motivated trainee, when given the opportunity to prove themselves in a new career, works hard to demonstrate their value and becomes productive very quickly. Not only this, but by continuing their study in their own time, they tend to progress their capability quickly to the benefit of the employer as well as the individual.

So employers should think laterally and keep an open mind when it comes to recruitment – focusing on the aptitude and attitude of the individual who has funded their own learning and benefiting from a workforce of quick learners with the drive to succeed.

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