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Times Tech Summit | Mind the gap: addressing the skills shortage

23 February 2022

by La Fosse Associates

( Words)
In December 2021, the Times Tech Summit (hosted by the Times and the Sunday Times) brought together CIOs, CTOs and senior executives from across the UK to discuss data, cyber security, the skills gap, and set agendas for future tech innovation. In this panel, our very own Simon La Fosse was joined by a number of key industry players to discuss the current skills shortage in the UK, and the role we all play in stabilising supply and demand for future generations of workers. La Fosse are proud to have been a supporting partner for this event.
Panellists:

Hannah Prevett (Moderator) – Deputy Editor, The Times Enterprise Network

Simon La Fosse – Founder and Executive Chairman, La Fosse Associates

Saul Klein – Founding Partner, LocalGlobe

Chris Loake – Chief Technology & Operations Officer, C Hoare & Co.

Milena Nikolic – CTO, Trainline

Joysy John – CEO, 01 Founders

Shifting priorities

The UK has always been a major player in the tech world. Now, nearly 3 million people in the UK work in tech, with 100,000s of job openings available each day. As Saul Klein notes, the UK tech economy is the “third fastest growing and most important ecosystem globally”, sitting just behind the Bay Area and Beijing. As technology continues to weave its way across all sectors, demand for these roles is growing rapidly year on year.

Post pandemic, however, people are rethinking what they want from work – as employers will be aware, flexible working has become a top priority. Despite the massive growth in the tech industry and jobs within the sector, demand still far outstrips supply; the ability and desire to work remotely has resulted in a highly competitive, candidate-led landscape. Consequently, many businesses are struggling to get the right people, with the right level of experience, at the right price for their budget. Because skills are in such high demand, larger companies are willing to pay much higher than average to secure the talent they need; even among people with one or two years of experience, salaries have inflated so much that it has become common for people to be offered double their pay grade.

How can businesses change the way they hire?

The crux of all this is that it’s time for companies to change the way they hire. This event’s panel put forward four key approaches that employers should consider as part of any ongoing hiring plans. 

  1. Lead with flexibility
    Being too prescriptive could jeopardise your ability to bring in top talent – in today’s competitive market, employers should empower and trust people to choose what works for them. As well as remote working having many obvious benefits to the employee, especially in terms of wellbeing and work-life balance, it also opens up lots of opportunities for employers – as candidates are no longer tied to a specific location, being flexible around remote working allows access to a much deeper, international talent pool. This “flexibility first” approach has already been adopted by companies like Trainline; CTO Milena Nikolic discusses how they are implementing hybrid working models and encourages businesses to “empower people to choose what works for their personal work-life balance”, something she believes will lead to a more successful business and provide better results. 

  2. Lead with purpose
    As Milena Nikolic continues, “Coming out of the lockdowns, I think everyone had time to step back to rethink what's important to them.” In a world where “hygiene aspects” like compensation are becoming less of a problem, “it’s now starting to be also about the purpose of the company and what the company is trying to achieve”. Simon La Fosse also notes that “we're seeing an increasing need for people to feel connected to the organisation that they're working with, and why shouldn't they?”

    Businesses need to consider what else they’re offering to potential employees – how can they leverage their ethos and position themselves as somewhere employees can connect to and be fulfilled by?

  3. Lead with development
    With the risk of paying well over market rate for senior roles, UK businesses would be prudent to shift their focus from the “knee-jerk reaction” of replacing senior talent to one led my developing and nurturing early-stage talent within the business. As Simon explains, “it's just not about trying to replace experienced people. It's about getting them in earlier, nurturing them, developing them, going through the effort that's involved in that, and taking care with people. And that is […] what companies in the UK need to appreciate more than they have in the past.” Chris Loake also gives his view on the subject, noting the main challenge to hiring being that, everybody wants to hire somebody with five years' experience...but in the industry that I work in, that's just not realistic.”

    In short, investing in internal learning and development – putting mechanisms in place that allow junior hires to stay and develop effectively within the business – could be a much more programmatic answer to the issues we have today. As Saul Klein, Co-Founder of LocalGlobe argues, if you don't invest in your talent brand – in training, in learning, and development – and you're not building your internal capacities, then you're not going to be a talent leader.”

  4. Look outside the box
    In today’s age, technology is not a separate career path – every business is a tech business to some extent, and the majority of office workers are expected to use technology as an integral part of their role. As such, many businesses have started to look outside of their usual pools of STEM graduates to find people with transferrable skills and the right attitude and potential to be trained and upskilled.

    According to Tech Nation, of the 2.9 million tech workers in the UK, nearly 1.1 million of these are made up of people working digital jobs outside of the tech sector itself. As most of these workers will likely not have come from a tech background, it also proves that skills are easily transferrable from one sector to another with tech as the lynchpin. This is a case of improving diversity in a different sense than what we’re used to – inclusive hiring is an invitation to, as Saul puts it, “stop thinking in silos” and put more value on soft skills and individual potential.

Who is responsible for reshaping the UK tech workforce? 

The government is already allocating spending to build out the economy, but there is only so much they can do when it comes to making change on a smaller scale. Tech is here to stay, and it is our communal responsibility (whether business leaders, employers or educators) to address the skills gap and ensure that the tech of the future is built by people from all walks of life. 

Fixing the skills shortage and democratising access to tech careers is something we’re passionate about at La Fosse; as a talent partner to many leading businesses, we have a responsibility to help them enact change and set standards for the wider industry. We are pioneering this change through our award-winning tech training company, futureproof. Since 2019, the academy has already launched the careers of over 100 future tech superstars from all backgrounds, training them in full-stack web development before placing them into junior roles within leading companies for two years, with full support from our team throughout.

If you’re interested in learning more about how futureproof associates can benefit your tech teams, visit our website or book in a call with our Head of Commercial, Claudia Cohen.

No matter your hiring needs, our top-to-bottom talent services are here to help. View our capabilities here or get in touch with your account manager today.