Sarah Riggott, Head of People at ROQ – the independent quality engineering company that partners with some of the world’s largest organisations on their most important technology initiatives – explores…
The UK’s digital skills gap needs a multipronged approach to attack a longstanding issue that is only growing with time.
Glenn Harrington’s recent thoughts for TechRound (Bridging Britain’s Digital Talent Gap: Nurturing Digital Skills Starts With Coding In The Classroom – TechRound) made a powerful case for creating the tech workers of the future by embedding digital skills from primary school.
That focus on computer science at school is key to futureproofing the UK digital workforce – but more must also be done for current workers who were closed off to it in school through the relevant subjects being optional, rather than mandatory.
Pre-pandemic, it was recognised that a digital skills shortage was developing and this has become acute in the short time since 2020.
By 2025, it’s anticipated that there will be three million new technology job vacancies in the UK and, worldwide, around 149 million.
Demands for certain technological skills are soaring particularly those related to automation, methodology and agile software development.
ROQ has seen a significant increase in software testing opportunities, where clients are finding it difficult to access high-quality skills and expertise.
We’ve run a successful graduate programme for years and now we’re addressing the way we make careers in software testing accessible for those who didn’t pursue it earlier in life but had an interest sparked later. It’s an opportunity to give options to those seeking a change as well as accelerating diversity and inclusivity.
We recently launched an accredited Level 4 Software Testing Apprenticeship to support people who:
- Want to get back into work after a career break
- Are ex-forces looking to start in tech
- Are looking to change direction and get into software testing.
It’s a great chance to earn and learn, with experience on real projects in software testing for leading brands, as well as classroom training – and it leads to an International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) qualification.
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Candidates are work-ready after 14 weeks and such a strong offer has meant, despite growing rapidly, we don’t have to compromise on our values, which drive everything we do.
We offer good roles where people can come from other sectors and soon find themselves making a difference to companies like Unilever and Specsavers.
Collaborating with Greater Manchester training provider, Credersi, we’ve custom-built the best software testing apprenticeship there is. Together we are at the centre of some of the most exciting and innovative digital and tech communities, and our joint focus on attitude and aptitude is central to our success.
We look for characteristics like inquisitiveness, good problem-solving and strong attention to detail rather than career histories. Having taken a mixed path with a variety of roles myself after education, I am a big believer in the value of transferable skills.
When I found a role I wanted, I went back to college. The opportunity to upskill and gain a qualification in an area relevant to my chosen career felt fantastic. I was learning with purpose, and it was a real game-changer, and now I work in a role that offers the same to others.
A career is not a one-way street with no exits. Many women don’t study computer science during education and a recent white paper stated that 60 per cent of female STEM students had had future career prospects affected by the pandemic.
Creating a culture that focuses on recruiting the best talent with the right values will go some way to help fill the technology skills gap by using more of the UK’s available workforce and reducing the gender diversity problem.
Retraining schemes and programmes for new entrants, such as ours, is essential but, equally, so is continuous development of those already in our sector to nurture talent, keep pace with change and retain good people.
A majority (70 per cent) of young people surveyed said they expect their employers to invest in their digital skills but less than half (47 per cent) of workforces said they were offered on-the-job training. Our preference is to invest in our employees, promote from within so that we’re enhancing and fulfilling colleagues’ ambitions here and growing together.
Forty per cent of UK digital leaders admit they can’t keep key employees for as long as they would like and turnover of employees can be costly. To help prevent this, companies should invest in continuous training and their employees’ wellbeing.
ROQ’s employee promise includes career development and training as well as a wellbeing programme to help our people be happy at work – people stay because they want to and that’s because of everything we offer.
We combine all of this with a remote working strategy that allows us to continue recruiting candidates with the necessary digital skills across a greater geographical reach.
UK Businesses must be mindful that skills shortages are more than a set of statistics. Our country depends on solving these issues as they directly impact the wellbeing of our people, the economy, and the shape of our future workforce.
What remains to be seen is whether the technology sector, in its entirety, can take the initiative and accelerate a higher standard and continuity of learning – whether this is achieved through links to educational establishments, plugging the gender gap, creating apprenticeships, or by providing continued learning programmes.