On 26th May we co-hosted ‘The Future of Tech Recruitment’ event at Sunderland Software Centre with our friends from Technically Compatible to discuss some of the key issues that our industry faces in identifying, engaging, recruiting and retaining tech talent.

Expertly hosted by Carl Jones (CEO, Technically Compatible), the panel of experts included Rachel Peacock (DevAcademy), Sandra Ericsson (Harvey Nash), Amy Porter (Sunderland Software City), Jonathan Crick (SaleCycle), David Jenkins (Watson Burton) and myself.

@lordlancaster's Tweet about The Future of Tech Recruitment

With an audience of around 50 recruitment specialists and industry professionals from leading tech and digital companies in the North East, it was a lively discussion which tried to offer some insight into the unique problems they might be facing but also the wider issues being faced in the tech sector throughout the UK.

Some of the key takeaways included:

  • To educate regional outsiders on the merits and benefits of the North East, greater collaboration needs to happen between businesses, educators and councils to attract more talented people to the area. (The same principles can probably be applied to any city region in the UK but especially in the Northern Powerhouse areas of the North East, North West and Yorkshire)
  • Companies should look to develop CSR initiatives that allow top developers to train teachers or become part time teachers themselves could really help the region’s economy and growth (for example the Code Club and CoderDojo events that take place throughout the UK)
  • Businesses need to become more open about remote working and remote employment to source more senior developers, and if they do allow this they should specifically mention it in their job ads

The panel agreed there was a very sound commercial argument for ensuring a happy and highly engaged workforce in the tech sector as the best talent tends to be highly mobile and has a lot of options with regards to when and how they can work.

Jonathan described how SaleCycle sends a weekly single question email survey to all staff asking them what they think of a certain issue in the company and another once a month asking them how happy they are on a scale of 1 to 10. By ensuring that their staff feel involved in how the business is run, they have a very low turnover of staff and were named as ‘The Best Tech Company to Work for in the UK‘ in a poll by Glassdoor in 2015.

But where are all the best/senior developers hiding? Everyone who spoke at the event talked about a shortage in talent with a clear mismatch between the job vacancies and the people available. This is something that we are trying to help improve through our CareerHacker tool which gives people advice on the skills and training required to do a certain role and who might be hiring.

However, this is a huge problem that needs long-term thinking and interventions at every level from school age all the way up to in-house training and development of staff including:

  • Making it easier for tech companies with a skills shortage and/or growth ambitions to work with academic institutions to develop apprenticeships and training programmes that are directly relevant to their needs
  • Recognising that employers may be expecting too much of teachers and education providers and so they should be willing to take on lesser skilled people and train them up to the level that they need
  • Businesses, local authorities and academic institutions should work collectively to identify the skills shortages in their particular area and then raise awareness of the opportunities for work if people can upskill and follow a certain career path. (This is something we are currently looking to do with Local Enterprise Partnerships throughout the UK)
  • Embracing the Government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ brand as a way to tempt senior developers and business leaders back to the North East, North West and Yorkshire to either work for a tech business or start their own

This is a huge issue for everyone working in the tech and digital sector of the UK and one that we wish to play a major part in so if you’d like to know how we can help, please email me direct or comment below.

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