Business Technology

There's a skills shortage in the coding industry

5 min read

19 September 2018

Features Editor, Real Business

The coding industry is facing a chronic skills shortage. But why is this the case? And what are employers doing to combat the problem?

Do you code? That’s the loaded question unleashed from the bearded mouths of many a hipster in recent years. Nearly every person working in the digital industries gets asked this question. But it carries added emotional weight nowadays. There is a skills shortage in the tech industry.

A British survey from 2017 found that 67% of UK coders were proud of their work, and believed that British code is the best in the world. So why aren’t there more people interested in entering the industry?

In honour of National Coding Week, we asked employers what they are doing to combat this.

The 2008 hangover

Despite the tech industry experiencing exponential growth over the past few years, employers are still not hiring enough junior talent. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, tech firms put the cork in recruiting for entry-level positions. This created a backlog. Employers lost valuable time in building up the experience of these employees, which meant they did not move up the employment ladder. 

This has resulted in where we’re at today, where there are not enough candidates with the mid-level experience to meet employment demands. Coupled with the rapid acceleration of technology, it has created a chronic skills shortage in the industry. Here’s what two business leaders had to say.

Dominic Harvey, director –  CWjobs

Short-term fixes are not enough to solve the skills shortage in the UK tech sector. Looking for temporary solutions won’t magically expand our talent pool, especially as tech companies look to attract female and BAME candidates.

As it stands, only 15% of the tech workforce is female, and if one company gets a greater share of this talent, then others will inevitably miss out on opportunities to expand and diversify their existing workforce.

We need to see a long-term strategy led by the government that will see UK tech companies exponentially increase their talent pool in general, whilst also making a concerted effort to make computing and tech careers more appealing to female candidates.

The government can do this by going back to basics and focusing on embedding tech skills and engaging children from a primary school age. In order to plug the skills shortage in the future, children now need to go to secondary school ready to read, write and code.

Susie Cummings, founder – Nurole

The tech talent pool has been one-dimensional for too long, in part because historically there have been so few varied leaders within the industry.

This puts forward an image that the sector is not suited or open to everyone. In fact, on average, females make up only 10% of the applicants for Nurole’s board level tech roles. 

It’s up to companies and leaders of those companies to make sure that they inspire all of their employees, regardless of age or gender, to aim high and take on roles that challenge them, whatever the perceived image of that role may be.

Industry culture and image is set from the top; more diverse people in senior tech roles and on Boards will help inspire a more diverse next generation of coders.

Human error blunders

As we are all too aware, global terrorism means that cyber security is a big demand in today’s employment society. This is the sector of coding, and tech more broadly, that risks AI taking over from human candidates for these roles.

Human error has been blamed for security breaches in companies, as well as a lack of training in how to prevent, and respond to such breaches.

What can employers do?

Whilst tech employers can do more to solve the skills shortage, such as make their recruitment strategy resonate with various candidates and employ more across-the-board entry level candidates to encourage natural progression and growing experience skills. It’s up to the government to change things as well.

The government must champion a more comprehensive IT curriculum within schools, as well as promote coding workshops across schools, colleges and universities to stimulate the next generation of coders – and help them enter the industry.