Partnerships: the secret to improving diversity in tech and closing the skills gap

Flight data specialists OAG explain why diversity is so important to the sector

Tech has accelerated its growth in the past few years. The sector has seen even more expansion than usual since the pandemic and the normalisation of hybrid working.

The industry currently makes up 5.5% of the UK’s economy, or approximately £82.7 billion. The Government predicts it could generate an additional £41.5 billion by 2025, creating thousands of employment opportunities and driving evolution across the country.

It is undeniably one of the most exciting places to be right now. And yet, tech employers continue to struggle to find the right talent. Increasingly, they feel their candidate pools are shrinking at the same time as skill shortages are increasing across their technology teams. And the numbers back this up: previous Nash Squared research found that a lack of technical skills was holding back 68% of businesses.

Additionally, employers are under increased scrutiny from the public and their inventors to improve representation, particularly in sectors where diversity has traditionally been deprioritised. Rather than an empty quota, most businesses now see diversity as a serious and impactful requirement that they must meet.

It may appear that the issues of diversity and the lack of IT skills are unrelated and separate from one another. In actuality, they are structural in nature and result from the glaring lack of diversity in the computer industry, particularly in the UK. Therefore, the solution must also be comprehensive and deal with the institutional issues this stems from.

Opening the gates to the world of tech

The best technology firms don’t just look for talent. They should aspire to create places where talented people are developed and nurtured – even before they enter the business. I believe that ethical companies provide better workplaces and bring about the change we need to address the diversity challenge and the lack of tech talent.

A perfect way to do so is to collaborate with partners united in ensuring that everyone has access to technology regardless of background.

We’re thrilled to be partnering with School of Code, a UK-based social enterprise that expands opportunities for everyone and unifies diverse groups of people looking to enter the world of coding. Initiatives like theirs allow newcomers to gain critical skills and prepare for a career in technology.

Diversity in tech teams: a vital factor for growth

Every aspect of business benefits greatly from having more diverse teams. Technologists are those who solve problems. We require various viewpoints that can shed light on the numerous facets of a situation to do our job efficiently. If it simply represents one point of view, we can considerably create an innovative and well-thought-out solution that will withstand the test of time and live up to our clients’ expectations.

Diverse teams bring a variety of skill sets, which is crucial for the intricate and detail-oriented responsibilities of engineers. Technology teams work hard to generate value for our clients and, eventually, investors. In such a setting, a team needs to function like a well-oiled machine. Having a combination of complementary skill sets is a fantastic way to do that.

Developing a diverse workforce is another step towards fostering a more positive, encouraging, and supportive organisational culture. Teams with a deeper understanding of one another are better equipped to celebrate each other’s victories and lean on one another when times become tough. Despite having differing opinions, team members are united by the value of cooperation and their shared commitment to a set of core values.

Positioning your enterprise for success

Investing in talent goes beyond looking at credentials, education, and other conventional measures of cognitive ability. Pieces of paper are not the only things that can demonstrate skills, motivation, and attitude in addition to talent. Businesses can access fresh talent pools and innovative techniques for inspiring others and motivating employees by concentrating on the latter.

Every new candidate that enrols at the School of Code receives comprehensive training. In addition to being integrated into their agile team, they each undergo three months of bespoke training to prepare them for their jobs and teams. As a result, their onboarding and training coincide, providing them with a sense of achievement and a specific objective to work towards.  It is a complicated and time-consuming process, but years later, after welcoming many School of Code graduates into our organisation, I could not be happier that we took the risk.

Business decisions need to be made with the long-term perspective in mind, especially at times such as these, when our economy is under serious pressure. One choice that will benefit us and the smart individuals who join our team for many years to come is investing in a diverse workforce.

At OAG, we continue to explore new prospects for partnerships and apprenticeships that correspond with our diverse ideals, in addition to growing our ongoing collaboration with the School of Code. I hope that many companies in our industry, or others, will follow in our footsteps and respond to the tech skills gap in this way. I guarantee it will be a rewarding experience.

Nick Dearden, Chief Technology Officer at OAG.

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