Thought leaders in the industry can provide a focal point for communities to come together around issues that matter.
This week, QA’s own CTO, Katie Nykanen was at the heart of a discussion around real challenges that leaders like herself are facing, the solutions that QA believes in, and the benefits that both businesses and professionals stand to gain.
Female CTOs are in short supply. As Katie emphasised in her seminar ‘Powering your potential through tech and digital skills’ at the HR Technologies event 2023 in London, ‘Just 20% of us in the industry are women’.
We saw a great turnout of attendees coming along to hear first-hand from a female leader in a leading UK tech company, on how we can increase that number, as well as insights into the wider talent crisis.
In this article, we’ll provide the highlights from Katie’s talk, and let you know where to join us next at our upcoming events.
The tech skills crisis
We’ve all heard that the ‘tech talent crisis’ or ‘skills shortage’ is happening, but what does that really mean?
Katie explained that it’s not as simple as being financially unable to remunerate the (often expensive) expertise you need, or the brand reputation to attract the calibre of talent required. Even if you have both, there simply isn’t enough talent out there to fill tech vacancies, no matter if you’re their dream company or not.
In numbers: According to Tech Monitor, 64,000 vacancies for tech jobs in the UK were active in 2022, within 72% of companies. 68% are struggling to fill those roles, and 45% say this is due to a lack of available talent.
Where does the problem start?
As a mum of young children, Katie traces the problem right back to early education.
The ages of roughly 7 to 11 can be identified as a crucial stage for ‘career insight’; essentially an awareness of the potential careers that are out there.
While basic computer literacy is now taught for this age group, the breadth of tech professions and pathways are largely not represented. This means that the number of young people aspiring to be a Software Developer, Business Analyst or Cyber Security Engineer, needs boosting.
Later in life is where the opportunity is currently concentrated, with the age range from roughly 18 to 28 and upwards being the prime window for upskilling and reskilling to remain in step with digital transformation.
Learn, Reskill, Upskill
Firstly, it’s important to remember that ‘tech jobs’ is a term often misinterpreted. They don’t just sit within what we typically think of as tech companies.
To take Katie’s example of hospitality. A hotel business is not a tech company, but in 2023 their competitive edge is all about providing a personalised digital experience for customers; ‘now it’s about the booking technology, and the experience for the customer when they come to the hotel’.
This transformation, along with the lack of available tech talent, requires businesses to bring their existing staff on what Katie calls a ‘journey of digital transformation.’
‘It means taking employees from non tech roles; Operational, People or Finance roles, and giving them those technical skills.’
In sum, reliance on ready-skilled talent is no longer realistic. Businesses must diversify their approach to talent acquisition but more importantly invest in their existing human capital.
This is where QA comes in, with our mission to address business needs through bespoke learning solutions that benefit the professional, the business and the wider industry.
Diversity in tech
Part of that mission involves getting fresh talent into tech careers. When sourcing talent and building new pipelines, we have a responsibility to ensure that we do so in an accessible, equitable and diverse way.
QA view the skills shortage not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to accelerate the diversification of tech, by helping businesses to tap into historically overlooked talent pools.
This can include groups ranging from mums returning to work, career changers, military leavers, those moving on from redundancies, jobseekers from underprivileged backgrounds and neurodiverse individuals. All of whom are primed to acquire new in-demand skills and inject new life and diversity into an industry in dire need.
Each hire is a step in the direction of a more diverse future. QA believe that diversity begets diversity and embracing it at all levels of your business will deliver results in revenue, innovation and culture.
We asked Katie, if businesses could take one action to become more attractive to that diverse talent, what would it be?
‘Recently I spoke to someone who was the only black woman in a cohort of 50. She said to me “I’m the only person, what can I do?” and I told her “Please just stick it out, because then next time there will be a few more, and the next time even more.”
‘I think that when diverse candidates join an organisation and we say, “we’re here for you, we’re supportive, and very happy that you’re here”, it’s important that we live that, and it’s reflected in their experience.’
To conclude our highlights on this pertinent talk, huge thanks not only to Katie for sharing her insight, but to everyone who attended in support for their great questions!
Create the future – see you there!
Want to learn more? You’ll have another chance to hear from Katie, along with learning experts from QA, Microsoft, BT, NIIT and QinetiQ, soon. She’ll be hosting a live discussion for Learning at Work week on the 18th of May.
Come along to Create the future if you’re interested in QA’s mission to realise a more diverse and well-equipped future for Tech in the UK
With some exciting guests including clients and subject matter experts, we’ll be diving into all things learning culture. From navigating the challenges, to selecting the right training for you, and catering to various learning styles.
We can’t wait to see you there! Sign up now.