HR 1 December 2016

How a small business can build a bridge over the digital skills gap

Research suggests that one in four small business vacancies are difficult to fill as a result of the digital skills gap
Writing for Business Advice, Paul Haydock, CEO of invoice finance platform DueCourse, considers how a forward-thinking approach to recruitment can help a small business owner access the best in tech talent.

Small business owners beware. The skills gapis widening with each passing year in the UK, and we need to be clever if were going to find a way to bridge it.

According to the Hays Global’skillsindex, 2016 is the fifth year in a row that our digital’skillsbase has taken a beating, with many university degrees offering neither the technical or vocational knowledge that businesses today want and need.

A good example is the field of computer science. Universities tend to review their computer science course syllabuses every four years, and a new syllabus takes two years to implement.

Considering how rapidly computer science is advancing and evolving, it’s not surprising that graduates are emerging from university fresh-faced and keen, but ultimately lacking in the’skillsa tech-based business needs from new recruits.

This situation presents a problem for businesses, particularly small companies and startups and not just in the tech sector.

The skills gapacross the board has worsened by eight per cent since 2011, and a survey of 9, 000 UK companies has reported that one in four vacancies are proving difficult to fill as a result.

A fresh batch of eager grads may seem like a goldmine for businesses looking for new blood but, for most small firms, hiring them fresh out of university generally isnt a viable option.

Any business owner who hires new graduates will have to invest a great deal of time and money into training them. At DueCourse, for example, we couldnt possibly take our senior developers away from important projects to up-skill’such a junior member staff, much as wed like to be able to.

However, business owners can still get around this problem if they adopt a slightly more shrewd approach to recruitment.

What they need to do is forget about recruitment agencies and check out the competition itself. They need to take a closer look at other companies in their sector and find out who they are hiring, what their’skillsare and if they’d be a good fit for the business in terms of personality and outlook.

To do this, they need to look beyond the CV and scrap formal interviews, swapping them instead for informal, face-to-face chats and tours of the business. It’s more about them selling the company to the candidate rather than the other way around.

In our opinion this is the way forward for smart recruiting. They say that the very best people are already in a job, and are probably happy there. With this in mind, company decision makers need to put a little planning, time and strategy into sniffing out the right talent, and then working out how to tempt them over.


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