Three uncomfortable truths about the tech skills gap

Three uncomfortable truths about the tech skills gap

09/11/2021

Let’s be honest, we’d all prefer it if the tech skills gap wasn’t a thing.

For one, life would be much, much easier, both for hiring managers and for people struggling to kick off their career. 

On top of that – the concept is losing its shine after all these years. Google Trends shows that interest in the phrases “skills gap” and “skills shortage” was at its peak in 2004 when records began, then dipped a little, and has trundled along consistently ever since. The tech skills gap is a hairy, ongoing, unsolved puzzle. It’s exhausting to keep thinking about it, so it’s tempting to try to change the phraseology.

If only reality cared about either of those two things.

Pretending that the skills gap doesn’t exist amounts to dangerously wishful thinking. You can’t simply turn off the forces of supply and demand. Industry will always be one step ahead of education – at least until money stops making the world go round – and with more and more jobs in tech, there aren’t enough people in the labour market with the skills needed for the number of entry-level roles. Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of new graduates every year, but many of them don’t want a career in tech. Of those who do, most face a punishingly steep learning curve.

The fact is, there is a skills gap. Why else would big companies like ours have a viable business model, connecting education to the working world through emerging talent training programs?

At mthree we’re fans of calling a spade a spade. Calling it something else just for the sake of it means mental gymnastics. And that’s a distraction from the challenge at hand.

With that in mind, let’s look 3 inconvenient truths straight in the eye.
 

Uncomfortable truth #1:

The tech skills gap isn’t going anywhere

The World Economic Forum wrote in their 2020 Future of Jobs report that they expect technology advancements to create 97 million jobs by 2025. In other words, there will be 97 million brand new roles to fill that nobody's ever done before.

At the same time, they predict as many as 85 million existing jobs to be displaced by technology. Even if you could reskill all 85 million of those people into the aforementioned brand new tech roles, that still leaves 12 million empty seats.

And coronavirus hasn’t exactly made the situation any rosier. Sarah Franklin, Forbes council member and senior leader at Salesforce, has described pandemic-based shifts in the use and prevalence of technology, with the skills gap widening as a consequence.

 

Uncomfortable truth #2:

Beliefs about “best” are out of date

Of course it’s understandable that hiring managers feel under pressure to find that one elite candidate who blows all others out of the water. However, the cachet of a degree from a prestigious university is a redundant factor for most of today’s tech roles. So is the highly academic nature of grades in the 95th percentile.

That’s not to suggest either of those factors do more harm than good, or that people don’t have to be brilliant at their jobs. It’s just a case of using a screwdriver to hammer in a nail. You don’t need the ability to crack the Enigma code for a role in, say, production support or data engineering – you need practical workplace skills that you just don't get at university.

As HBR puts it, “does the job require a top performer from a higher-ranked university where even a 2% improvement in performance is critically important and offsets any pay differential? Or can the performance criteria be met by graduates from lesser-ranked universities? To make the most strategic decision, an HR manager should know the answer to this question before they look at an applicant’s college pedigree.”

With the shifting shape of today’s job landscape, it’s more important than ever to weigh up the specific demands of a job before setting the entry criteria. Under-egging it is risky, but so is over-egging it, which leaves you accidentally turning away great people who tick the boxes. 

 

Uncomfortable truth #3

You’ve got to think global (diversity depends on it)

Here we come back again to the influence of the pandemic. As well as accelerating the demand for experts in technology, it has driven a step change in remote working practices – forever. Companies figured it out because they had no other choice. It was do or die.

It’s certainly not true that every team is now perfectly optimized for remote working. We’ve all heard or witnessed the horror stories. Nevertheless, this dynamic has opened up an advantage to organizations who are able to fish in different ponds to everyone else.

Not only are you no longer fighting over the same crumbs of local talent, but it’s a key condition for diversity too. Cultural and geographical differences are vital for livening up an organization’s diversity of thought to achieve better business outcomes, alongside more common axes such as ethnicity and gender.

Nobody enjoys cramming a square peg into a round hole. If you’re able to hire across the world, you boost your chances of finding the right person for the job – as well as being genuinely inclusive. This is why we’re delighted to be part of Wiley, a global behemoth in research, publishing and education. It enables us to support every conceivable location strategy for our clients.

 

At the end of the day...

All of this is why we talk about helping organizations bridge the skills gap. It’s what we do at mthree. No mental gymnastics, no faux contrarianism, just a pragmatic approach to delivering industry-aligned technology training that meets today’s ever-changing requirements.

Looking to bring in graduates with the skills you need – or reskill your existing employees? Our pathways include production support, data engineering, software development, cybersecurity, banking services and more. get in touch at info@mthree.com.