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Is there a tech talent deficit in the UK?

February 2020
I
5 minutes

I get asked a lot by founders and hiring managers that are looking to hire tech talent if the deficit of candidates in the UK is a real thing? The answer is a big YES - and they can feel it every time they try to add fresh technical talent to their team.

In today’s environment, when companies are able to reach candidates from 5+ different directions (job platforms, social media, ads, podcasts, events, etc.), Brexit is certain, decisions become more and more automated, and USA is attracting talent by offering a dream package, how can we, UK based organisations, fight or be smart about finding solutions to this problem?

Robert Bucur

Robert Bucur

Robert is a co-founder of Increw

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Why do we have a tech talent deficit?

I’m referring to approximately 800,000 - 1,000,000 tech-focused roles that are currently left unfilled, which are causing at least £63 billion/year loss in productivity, and these are real, tangible numbers.

The main cause is represented by the exponential growth of in-demand roles caused by emerging technologies like AI, deep learning and blockchain, that generate requirements for specialist key skills that we are struggling to teach and later supply. The number of roles in this kind of technologies increases exponentially, over 500% since 2014 - that means on average, the number of available roles doubles every year.

What is going to influence the development of the gap in tech talent?

As Europe’s main tech hub, startups, SMEs and corporations are attracted to set up base here. This, in turn, generates a void of unfulfilled positions. How will this change as Brexit is looming closer and closer? This is a question to be answered more in-depth on a different occasion.

  • Small population, filling in the needs of a continent: London is considered to be the biggest tech hub in Europe, followed by Berlin, Paris and Madrid. How can a 67 million population fill in the needs of the biggest tech machine on the continent, while going head to head with USA and China with populations of 327.2 mil and 1.4 billion respectively? The numbers just don’t add up.
  • Brexit: The most important aspect that is going to greatly impact the evolution of our needs and how we choose to fulfill them, is represented by Brexit. As Britain departs the European Union, job vacancies will be less and less attractive for skilled workers from mainland Europe. Brexit will only further drain the limited pool of tech talent that is available for organisations to employ, through the influx reduction of EU tech talent.
  • Overseas competition: USA, with a main focus on Silicon Valley, is able to easily attract high qualitative talent due to a few key aspects: brands, reputation and income. Salaries in the USA tend to be on average 60% higher than the ones in London (do a Google search on this - you'll be blown away), in a position in which they are also able to put forward the ‘Mecca’ of any tech enthusiast. The plethora of global brands and companies shine and attract talent like diamonds in the dust - and there is no reason to blame the ones that allow themselves to bewitch upon. In the end, why wouldn’t you? (Really insightful material here...)

Short-term solutions:

  • Contractors: hire contract workers to fill in the gaps, even if it means paying more (would you rather pay more to get something done, or pay less for acceptable quality and wait twice as long?)
  • Fully-distributed remote teams: build remote teams in parts of the world that are close to you: location and culture-wise. This will allow you to tap into unsaturated talent, with similar overall potential as UK based candidates, that is eager and hungry to help reach your vision, at a lower price.
  • Seamless recruitment process: decrease time to hire and simplify recruitment processes. Getting to your desired candidates will always be a race with other employers and yourself. It is decidedly important to have a well-defined and seamless recruitment process that will allow you to filter and test candidates fast, while also providing the best experience for them.

Long-term solutions:

  • Educate: there is a multitude of programs that have kickstarted in order to encourage young students to follow a path that leads to these needed, but not fulfilled positions. We first need to turn the ship around, as the number of students that enroll in IT-related courses has decreased by 10% in the last year alone.
  • Reskilling: reaching this goal will require both the industry and the government to work together to encourage and facilitate the training and shift of deployed workforce in the direction of the required skills for the emerging technologies.
  • Branding: companies have to make themselves appealing to EU talent: funds directed towards perks, packages, flexible working and development opportunities for the candidates will represent a starting point when reaching out and attracting talent. It is essential for UK companies to use this in combination with their vision, technologies and practices to make themselves look appealing to the talent they want to attract.
Robert Bucur

Robert Bucur

Robert is a co-founder of Increw

Connect with the author

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