Skilled IT staff: In search of the Holy Grail

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IMAGENAMELooking for qualified and available IT staff is like looking for a needle in a haystack, says Bob Bradley. So why is there so much reluctance to hire career changers when they're a potential goldmine in the IT staffing desert.

Whilst companies are sceptical about recruiting trainees, or the recently qualified, to fulfil IT based positions, the alternative for many is to leave essential vacancies unfilled while the search continues for the Holy Grail that is the skilled, qualified, available and willing IT professional.

With heightened competition and limited resources, should employers be widening the net in terms of the skills and capabilities they look for? And how does the importance of aptitude and attitude stack up against the desire for recognised qualifications?

Photo of Bob Bradley"It is common practice... to recruit for aptitude and attitude and use training to build skills, so why are many IT employers so reluctant to give enthusiastic and capable career changers a chance?"

Employers need to change their approach to recruitment to match the current conditions of the IT industry - to move forward, look at alternative options available and look further than chasing after the small number of IT graduates.

It is common practice in many parts of business to recruit for aptitude and attitude and use training to build skills, so why are many IT employers so reluctant to give enthusiastic and capable career changers a chance?

The government has openly recognised the IT skills shortage, which affects roles from junior help desk technicians to programmers and web designers, but steps taken to tackle the issue have been slow and limited. E-skills UK says there needs to be 140,000 new employees every year in the UK's IT and telecomms sector, yet UK applications to IT related degrees have tumbled by 50% over the last five years. The incentive for employers to entice the right candidates has never been greater.

Employers looking to recruit IT professionals need to change their outlook and approach. Instead of spending months looking for a needle in a haystack, companies 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: the employer gains a good employee at low cost, and the employee gains a fantastic foot in the door of the industry.

"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."

As Katie Jansz, recruitment resourcer with Siemens points out, "we have appointed a number of recently qualified IT staff to work across a variety of positions. Many of them have very diverse career backgrounds and have funded their own training to enable their career change. We find that these individuals have a real sense of motivation and accomplishment; some having raced through their training courses, such is their determination to succeed.

"The benefits to the business of employing newly qualified IT staff are two-fold; they come with the enthusiasm and an aptitude for a new role and often have valuable commercial experiences from their previous line of work."

I believe this can 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.

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.

Bob Bradley is the CEO of Computeach. He is passionate about enabling businesses to achieve significant performance improvement through focused and inspiring leadership. He is also an advocate of coaching and mentoring for all staff.

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