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Technology firms must make key changes to address the current skill gap in the IT channel Andrew Denton, Solutions Director at Jigsaw24

The digital skills gap persists as a major challenge in how the IT channel sector is able to hire workers who are appropriately skilled for the tasks currently required, as digital transformation continues.

The digitalisation of the economy – where an increasing amount of ways of working on legacy systems which are moving to IT based solutions – is driving demand for a greater number, and a more diverse set of technology skill requirements. As a result, the UK is facing a shortage of skilled, affordable, and experienced labour in the marketplace. With other factors also having an impact on the skills gap, such as misperceptions early on in education about requirements for a role in the sector, technology firms need to ensure they are equipped to address the current IT skills gap.

Skill requirements are evolving rapidly, as traditional, on-premises workloads and solutions are modernising and being re-invented due to the evolution of technology, and the maturing of the IT market. It is now much more common to procure business systems in ‘as a service’ models or on a consumption basis, as was the case even five years ago. This is shifting the IT skills demand to roles where data, development, programming, automation, security, and cloud are much more prominent, and traditionally skilled workers need to retrain to remain relevant. This has resulted in a huge effort to meet the demand of the new world of IT skills.

The price of tech talent is simultaneously being pushed up from competition, only further heightened by cost-of-living squeezes. With talent competition increasing, businesses are having to react quickly to find ways to keep the best people.

To stay ahead of the curve, its key for businesses to develop a forward-thinking, inclusive culture, and a set of IT services that will attract talent. Investing time and effort into internal skill development to ensure you can offer broader paths for personal development is a core part of both attracting, and retaining, talent. In line with this, businesses need to continually assess the skillsets within their company against current demand and future requirements to ensure that the organisations are investing in training plans that align with the market needs. Whilst this can cause more upwards salary pressure, as their skills become more marketable, this must be judged against the value of the outcomes this will help deliver.

At Jigsaw24, we have recognised the creation of DevSecOps roles as being a good example of this. Recognising the growing need for DevSecOps talent, we have invested in building a team who provide automation and tooling for our business. Following the initial investment, we have seen the value of the team increase and provide a substantial differentiator. From a people perspective, it has also allowed us to retain and align some of our top technical talent by giving them a role that can test their capabilities and provide greater job fulfilment. Our employees are now aspiring to move into these technical roles, which has allowed Jigsaw24 to provide a wider selection of career paths and remain competitive against other IT employers.

The importance of providing a positive work environment can also not be overlooked. Employees are increasingly demanding more from their workplace, and as talent competition increases and the value of skills rises, employers must ensure they are offering good overall compensation packages, as well as a flexible and supportive company culture. This can present itself in many forms – from offering hybrid working plans to ensuring staff are equipped with modern, reliable, and well-maintained technology to give them the best experience in their day-to-day roles.

Beyond internal processes, work needs to continue to be done by businesses, academic institutions, and the government alike, to ensure entry-level talent are aware of the opportunities in technology and are provided with the means to meet the required skills. At Jigsaw24, we have been actively working with local colleges around apprentice schemes to nurture individuals into roles where they can learn and develop skills, whilst they continue to gain valuable qualifications and experience. We are expecting a new cohort of candidates this year, and we will continue to work in partnership with our local college to develop and grow the scheme.  Educational schemes such as this also provides the opportunity for the IT industry to address the underrepresentation of certain social groups in tech professions and consciously ensure all groups are provided with the opportunity, training, and support to move into these roles.

While it’s difficult to say whether the skill gap will continue to accelerate or ease over the coming years given the current economic environment, IT companies need to continue to anticipate for the future needs of IT skills within their organisation.  As digitalisation continues, the demand for IT skills is unlikely to lessen, and companies cannot underestimate the value of driving a forward-thinking culture that is able to adapt to ensure IT talent is equipped with training and development opportunities to meet the ever-growing technological demands. Certainly, for areas of the IT sector where they are seeing the most pressure on skills, companies need to consider how can they mitigate that through transformation, outsourcing and / or modernisation.

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