Britain's tech skills shortage has been well documented over the past few years, and in a bid to boost our nation's technical capabilities, Philip Hammond announced a wave of educational reforms in this year's Spring Budget. These included £300m of funding to support 1,000 new PhD places and fellowships in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects; as well as the introduction of a new 'T-level' system, which aims to put technical education on a par with academic studies and boost productivity levels. Training hours for technical students aged 16 to 19 are also to be increased by more than 50%, to an average of 900 hours a year.
These efforts will go some way to equip the future British workforce with the skills needed to plug the gap and increase the status of technical education in the UK. That said, what can employers do now to ensure their staff have the necessary skills today and tomorrow?
Nurture the 'teachable fit'
Employees won't always have all the core credentials and technical skills required for the role they're hired in. Organisations should look to nurture individuals with the aptitude and enthusiasm to learn new skills, and give them the freedom to experiment with new technologies and platforms to further their development. This isn't about fast-tracking certain individuals' careers, but more about giving them the opportunity to fit specific roles within a company.
Provide continuous opportunities to develop
To keep employees energised and engaged, employers should provide them with opportunities to work on different types of projects and assignments across the business to widen their understanding. Encouraging them to continually up-skill by completing the latest industry-certified courses will also enhance their personal development. This needn't be a complicated or expensive process - a lot of the skills that tech professionals already have are easily transferable. Up-skilling employees also has a number of long-term beneficial effects, such as boosting motivation and improving staff retention.
Recognise that there's no silver bullet for training
Tech employees at different levels want - and need - vastly different kinds of training. For instance, recent graduates will need to grasp the basics; new workers may need to be skilled up in legacy systems and others still might need to complete a specific certification, such as CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional). Some employees will prefer classroom-based training while others will favour online learning. Organisations need to view each element of their talent shortage, and then craft a training strategy that aligns with individual requirements.
Facilitate knowledge sharing
Employers need to implement a flexible and scalable workforce solution both now and for the future. This will often include a mix of employees including perm, short-term contractors and Employed Consultants, as well as off-shoring and outsourcing. Having people from a range of backgrounds enables businesses to bring in a variety of skills and transfer knowledge between people at different times.
Employability now depends less on what individuals already know and more on their ability to learn, apply and adapt. By adopting a flexible workforce and approach to training and development, British businesses can work with their existing employees to mould their skills and knowledge to fit the required roles, and build their technical prowess.