From education to employment

Mind the skills gap: building a career in tech

József Boda, CEO of Codecool and Michał Mysiak, CEO of Software Development Academy explores the potential solutions for the ever widening digital skills gap.

High demand for skilled people in the IT sector

Demand for skilled people in the IT sector is outstripping supply and will continue to do so for years to come – and this is happening globally. Figures for people working in tech range from 3 – 5 million in the UK alone with strong demand across all quarters, from tech startups to public sector organisations.

Against this backdrop, IT presents an attractive path for those at the start of their careers as well as for those switching careers. In the UK, the government’s Transforming for a Digital Future, is looking for “digital skills at scale.” While only last week the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, proposed to make 2023 the “European Year of Skills” in her 2022 State of the Union address. This will mean many new opportunities to improve the digital skills of Europeans and further investments in education and upskilling.

Choosing the right career path in the IT sector

There are a number of avenues available for people wanting to develop a career in the IT sector, a candidate looking at their choices might think of a traditional college or university model and follow a degree or higher vocational qualifications (such as NVQs, HNC, HND etc.) route alongside alternatives such as apprenticeships and targeted courses delivered by non-public sector training providers.

It is important to choose training that best lends itself to guaranteed employment. With this in mind, what should those looking to forge a career in technology look for in tech training?

Naturally a good training programme must deliver the technical skills required by the candidate to ensure that they are competent – each course, be it a full stack software developer, agile project manager or UX designer covers its own particular set of skills. The approach to how those skills are developed is important, this is where degree-based courses and targeted, commercial provision can differ – despite some degree-based courses including an element of exposure to a business or industrial setting, they remain, to a greater or lesser degree, oriented more towards theory and research than practical skills that can be applied in the workplace.

Soft Skills

To increase the likelihood of securing employment candidates need to demonstrate skills and aptitudes that make them stand out from the crowd – soft skills can be a deciding factor here. Soft skills such as the ability to apply specialist technical skills across a broad range of disciplines and business areas, critical thinking, problem solving and the ability to manage their time effectively – are the magic ingredient employers want in their prospective team members, beyond basic technical competence.

However, few training providers set out to build these soft skills alongside technical skills and knowledge though there are some exceptions, such as Codecool’s mentor-led programmes where communication, time management and other soft skills are a key part of the learning experience.

How good is the training provider at helping the candidate secure a job at the end of the course?

With confidence that the skills and knowledge a candidate will develop during a course will stand them in good stead in the employment market, the next, important consideration is how closely aligned the course or training provider is with potential employers. In short, how good is the training provider at helping the candidate secure a job at the end of the course?

Apprenticeships are of course, ‘a job with training’ and it is reasonable to expect that the candidate will continue to work for the sponsoring employer after the course concludes. However, apprenticeships are not always the best fit, competition for places can be fierce and opportunities for people who want to retrain from another career can be difficult to find.

An alternative model that has seen considerable success, is where training providers partner directly with a pool of employers, making employment opportunities directly available to graduates of their courses. Codecool recently merged with fellow digital skills training firm SDA, and has been successful applying this approach in its home markets of Central Europe where it is on target to train 15,000 – 20,000 per year as more people, companies and public sector organisations identify the need to upskill and reskill.

Whether starting out or looking to reskill, there are huge career opportunities in the IT sector. By ensuring that technical learning is complemented by soft skills training and the training provider has strong links to employers looking for people with those skills, candidates can maximise their chances of success in the job market.

By József Boda, CEO of Codecool and Michał Mysiak, CEO of Software Development Academy

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