3 Ways Your Company Can Help Close the Tech Skills Gap

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The digital skills gap in our country has persisted for years, and unfortunately, it’s getting worse. Technology is evolving fast, and automation is sweeping across every industry. Companies are in urgent need of tech skills, but they’re struggling to find qualified candidates through traditional pathways.

About 225,000 computing jobs are open in America, and only about 70,000 computer science graduates enter the workforce each year to fill them. This limited talent pool has created an incredibly competitive market for technologists. Plus, the deck is stacked against smaller businesses, especially those in non-tech industries. They stand little chance of wooing candidates away from the fancy perks, flexible hours, remote work policies, and higher salaries offered by big tech companies.

Many online fast-track programs have emerged to combat the problem. Google, for example, announced a six-month Career Certificate program that promises to create “a pathway to jobs” for people interested in data analysis, project management, UX design, and more. These types of online programs are certainly a step in the right direction as they are far more accessible and affordable than traditional four-year universities. Plus, they encourage individuals from a variety of backgrounds to enter the tech field, which could also help address the industry’s glaring lack of diversity.

However, online fast-track programs are not a panacea. They are promising, but we cannot expect them to completely solve the ongoing skills shortage.

The Limitations of Online Programs

Online training programs fall short in a variety of areas. To start, they are notorious for low completion rates. Just a small fraction of the people who enroll actually end up earning certificates.

Plus, these programs might teach graduates tech skills, but they don’t necessarily prepare people for careers. Most curricula don’t focus on job readiness or offer opportunities for students to connect with potential employers. Making matters worse, a huge number of people enrolling in these online courses live outside the US and have no intention whatsoever of entering the American workforce.

Simply put, online courses alone cannot produce the scale of workforce-ready talent American companies need. There is much more work to be done, and the onus doesn’t fall only on education providers: It also falls on human resources teams.

To that end, your company can play a role in closing the tech skills gap in these three ways:

1. Consider Your Current Team

If you’re looking to fill open tech roles, first ask yourself whether the talent you need already works for you. You might not need to recruit externally to fill your tech gaps. Instead of devoting time, money, and resources toward recruiting and hiring new employees, consider looking inward for employees who are ripe for reskilling. Reskilling or upskilling initiatives have become increasingly popular among companies that struggle to find outside candidates for hard-to-fill roles.

Good internal candidates for reskilling can include employees who are currently working in lower- or middle-skilled positions but have the aptitude to learn new tech skills and move into new roles. Poll such employees to see whether anyone displays a particular interest in learning new skills and shifting toward a more technical career path. For example, your employees in administrative roles who had to adapt quickly to remote work and display a high level of competence using new virtual work tools might be great people to start with.

Check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine for more career advice and recruiting trends:

2. Refresh Your Recruiting Strategy

If you do find that you need to look outward, don’t limit your search to college and university graduates. These pipelines simply aren’t producing the number of skilled tech workers companies need to fill vacant tech roles today, and there are other places to look for fresh tech talent.

Reaching out to potential candidates on LinkedIn, attending tech meetups, and keeping tabs on local coding hackathons are excellent ways to make more connections. Alternative skilling programs are also a great option for finding talent outside of traditional pipelines. Many students today learn tech skills through online programs, coding boot camps, and other skilling pathways.

As we discussed above, many of these online programs do have some pitfalls, but you can bypass those issues by finding programs with proven track records of successfully placing trainees in tech roles. You can also look for programs that will partner with your company and link you up with candidates who possess the exact skills you’re looking for.

3. Prioritize Soft Skills

Don’t focus so much on filling in your tech skills gaps that you forget entirely about the importance of soft skills. In an ever-evolving tech climate where company needs can shift on a monthly basis, you need workers who have the soft skills to be flexible in the face of change. That’s a skill you can’t measure with a coding test.

You’ll also want to find candidates who are fast and enthusiastic learners so they can continuously adjust to meet your company’s long-term needs. Their passion and willingness to learn mean they’re likely to evolve in stride with your company and your industry. Other soft skills to consider are communication, collaboration, empathy, time management, teamwork — all important aspects beyond the tech requirements of a role.

Consider that alternative pipelines can often offer more insights into the soft skills of candidates than the traditional computer science degree pathway. If a single parent of two who works a full-time job manages to successfully graduate from an online coding boot camp in six months, for example, you know they have good time management skills and a determination to succeed.

It’s time for companies, education providers, and nonprofits to work together to get digital skills into more people’s hands. We need to focus on scalable, mass-skilling initiatives that provide tech training and job placement opportunities to Americans from all walks of life. Every person should have access to high-quality education and career prospects. HR teams can do their part by revamping recruiting processes and emphasizing reskilling. Combined, our efforts can narrow the tech talent gap; fill open jobs; and enable more Americans to move into stable, lucrative careers.

Jeff Mazur is the executive director for LaunchCode.

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Jeff Mazur is the executive director for LaunchCode, a nonprofit organization aiming to fill the gap in tech talent by matching companies with trained individuals. As one of the winners of the 2017 MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge, LaunchCode has been recognized for expanding "the tech workforce by providing free coding education to disadvantaged job seekers." Jeff lives in St. Louis with his wife and twin girls.
https://www.launchcode.org/