Since well before the Covid-19 pandemic closed our borders, we’ve heard the same refrain from the tech sector – there just aren’t enough skilled people to do the work.
While most businesses are scrutinising their spending as the economic outlook deteriorates, we are seeing them continuing to invest in their IT capabilities to gain a competitive edge and to realise efficiencies and productivity improvements. The demand for tech talent is not letting up!
When it comes to many senior or specialist roles the shortage in tech skills is a fair statement. For instance, experienced software architects and cybersecurity analysts are hard to find. However, hiring companies and recruiters are not doing enough to solve this problem, often they are part of the problem, and recent layoffs at tech companies here and abroad is unlikely to alleviate the situation as the most skilled and experienced IT workers will be snapped up quickly elsewhere.
There’s another side to the IT skills shortage that doesn’t get talked about as much, which I have seen first-hand as a mentor to IT workers. Many of our tech graduates struggle to find work. My own son is in this boat. He graduated as a software developer and has learned several of the languages needed for development, but some of the offers he’s received for junior software development roles are laughable, and to support his young family it was better to stay on family support rather than take a role which didn’t allow his family to make ends meet.
Building the pipeline
Yes, graduates emerge from university with a solid base of knowledge and skills but lack the professional soft skills and experience that businesses need to allow for teams to function well and customers to remain happy and loyal.
Too often however, bright young graduates are being passed over for want of a bit of investment in them on the part of companies that are scouting for talent. Some of our larger tech companies have excellent IT graduate programmes, which serve as the first rung on the ladder for many young tech workers but we’re not doing enough as a collective tech sector to support the younger generation.
The industry as a whole needs to do much more to develop a more sustainable tech talent pipeline and really begin to address the problem it has been complaining about. Better coordination and planning is part of the solution and the Digital ITP (industry transformation plan) could go a long way to addressing our crucial skills gap, more focus on internal career progression within companies to create junior vacancies is one option.
More support from the Government will be needed to back up its plan with tangible resources to support the industry to be more effective in integrating and supporting training bodies.
While a business taking on graduates stands to benefit greatly from engaging them at an early stage in their career, there’s also a significant investment required. Senior staff need to put in the time working alongside graduates to guide and mentor them.
Government programmes to help offset the cost of supporting entry-level graduates would go a long way to fast track more graduates into IT careers.
Mentoring programs can also address the skills gap and encourage industry growth. Deptive is a sponsor of ManawaTech, an industry led non-profit organisation supporting emerging tech talent in the Manawatū region.
It’s been a pleasure to be involved in mentoring early career tech workers through the programme. I was a music teacher before delving into tech as a career myself, so have always been interested in helping people achieve their potential. I honed my mentorship skills working with graduates from various New Zealand universities and during my stint at Datacom, which by the way has an excellent graduate programme.
It takes a fair bit of patience and the ability to listen to be a good mentor.
I catch up each month with a mentee who is a project manager at a software development firm specialising in the health sector and I think I learn just as much from our conversations. At Deptive, we are always on the lookout for IT graduates to work with and currently have one working part time maintaining our research and development lab.
Small start, big potential
Angela, a University of Auckland student, has done a great job keeping our test environment in order so we can experiment with new technology in a secure environment. It’s a safe learning environment for her too.
We’d like to do more at Deptive to give early career tech workers the opportunity to start in IT. We also encourage our staff to look for opportunities to upskill and reskill. The tech sector isn’t like it was 30 years ago – the skills required to deploy technology effectively are more diverse than ever, which is an opportunity for employers to think differently about the make-up of their workforce.
We won’t fill the gap for skilled IT workers overnight. But we can be part of the solution by working with our talented young graduates to help them rapidly develop the skills and gain the experience they need to contribute in a meaningful way.
By Tony Lyne, Chief Architect and Practice Manager – Cloud and Infrastructure at Deptive
Deptive - Commercial Bay
11-19 Customs Street West St
Commercial Bay Tower, Level 17, Room 1715
We also have a virtual office in Wellington.
0800 000 141
PO Box 34797,
Birkenhead, Auckland 0746