Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

How are we going to fill the IT jobs gap?

It’s not surprising that there’s an IT skills shortage, the top twenty job roles where demand is growing fastest identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF) are almost all ICT related.

József Boda, CEO of Codecool and Michał Mysiak, CEO of Software Development Academy explore the reasons for the ever-widening IT skills gaps and potential solutions.

It’s not surprising that there’s an IT skills shortage, the top twenty job roles where demand is growing fastest identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF) are almost all ICT related. Demand is outstripping supply and will continue to do so for years to come.

How are we going to find the people to fill these jobs?  It is not just a problem local to the UK or mainland Europe, there is a global battle for IT skills and organisations that can’t fill those jobs are going to be at a disadvantage at the worst possible time as the economic outlook worsens.

Government initiatives to boost ICT skills are helpful in driving an increase in the number of skilled IT professionals available in the market but their reliance on public funding will not be enough. The problem isn’t the availability of training provision either: the European Software Skills Alliance (ESSA) published a report in 2021 about the current and future needs for software skills and professionals in Europe and it found that ‘there is no shortage of supply in training of the most relevant software skills (e.g.programming languages)’. 

Indeed, in our case, we are on target to train 15,000 - 20,000 per year as more people, companies and public sector organisations identify the need to upskill and reskill. Graduates coming from our courses have access to employment opportunities, and this is a critical draw - training with a job at the end. Working with companies that need tech workers also enables us to provide that key direct link between qualified workers and potential employers.

While there is lots of demand for skilled people and, it appears, training available to develop those people and their skills, there is still a gap - there must be other reasons for the lack of sufficient skilled IT workers.

The answers could lie in other findings of the ESSA report which talk about the nature of the skills developed, the pool of people engaging in ICT training and the relationship between training providers, learners and employers.

While there is ample provision of hard, technical skills in the IT arena across Europe, the ESSA found that the development of softer skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and self-management within ICT-oriented programmes, was generally limited. 

It is time to ensure that we develop softer skills as part of any vocational ICT training - concepts such as that of the ‘T’ shaped person (wherein deep specialist skills, the trunk of the ‘T’ are complemented by the knowledge and ability to work across and with a broad range of disciplines and business areas) are useful here. It is precisely these kinds of soft skills that a ‘T’ shaped person brings to bear that WEF report highlighted as being in demand and such skills can make the difference between a technically competent person and technically competent person that you want on your team.

While including soft-skills training in vocational technology skills will help to create an effective and employable workforce that fills the skills shortage, we also need to look further afield to widen the pool of people to build that workforce. As efficiency and automation increases, employers will find that the skills of some segments of their workforce have been made redundant, but these workers will still have valuable institutional experience and knowledge and by reskilling them, both employer and employee can benefit. This approach ties in neatly with the emerging concept of the ‘Π’ (pi) shaped person. Like the ‘T’ shape, the ‘Π’ shaped person not only has deep specialist technical skills and softer, collaboration and analytical skills, but also a separate, distinct specialist area that complements the technical skill set.

Women have traditionally been underrepresented in the IT workforce. The WEF found that the sector has some of the lowest female participation and finds it much harder than average to recruit women. Interestingly, the WEF found that sectors in the job market where women currently dominate are those that are in greatest decline (Office and Administrative, and Manufacturing and Production). Traditionally, women, more than men particularly those with children or caring responsibilities require work to be flexible to be viable.

Interestingly, across mainland Europe the countries at the start of their journey to solve the IT skills gap seem to be those that are doing best at growing the proportion of women in their IT workforce. This appears to be a regional phenomenon, focused largely on the central part of the continent: Romania has only 2.4% of its workforce in the ICT sector with 26.2% of those specialist roles filled by women, similarly Greece (2.0% ICT jobs, 26.5% women) and Bulgaria (3% ICT jobs, 28.2% women) - this is in contrast to the overall share of women in the ICT sector across Europe of 15.5%. Not only it seems, for women, Central Europe is also a growing hub from which to recruit a young hungry IT workforce that companies should consider.

There is a huge opportunity here and an important goal under the European Commission’s Digital Decade program is to employ 20 million ICT specialists by 2030, with an equal proportion of men and women - it may well be that closing the gender gap and benefitting from the skills of dedicated tech training providers in Central Europe will in turn play a large part in closing the IT skills gap.

About Codecool and Software Development Academy

Codecool and Software Development Academy (SDA) recently merged to become a European digital skilling and sourcing powerhouse. With presence over eight countries, the new organisation is on target to train 15,000 - 20,000 people annually in IT skills and work with 400+ corporate partners to provide workforces trained in the most popular technology subjects, from coding, security to Internet of Things and more.