By Simon Dutton, founder and CEO at Paritor, who specialise in software solutions for music and performing arts education
Technology is one of the UK’s fastest-growing and most innovative sectors and the South West is rapidly emerging as one of the key centres for tech growth and discovery.
With over 13,000 digital tech businesses in the South West turning over £2.4 billion and plans for a new Institute of Technology to support technical further education in the region, it is an exciting time to pursue a career in the field. However, attracting and retaining young tech professionals is a challenge facing South West firms.
Different routes into technology
A recent Heart of the South West Digital Skills Partnership report found that one in three employers have difficulty recruiting staff with suitable digital skills, with 76% of those struggling particularly to hire employees with advanced-level abilities.
In the South West, we can turn the tide beginning with improving the technology training opportunities available for young people at apprentice levels. Many people might think that a career in technology is unattainable without a university degree, however training through vocational courses can be more valuable for the industry.
With technology constantly evolving and changing the job requirements for businesses, developing new courses, certifications and conversion schemes outside of the mainstream curriculum helps the industry to keep up with skills demands and power the workforces of the future.
The development of the Institute of Technology in Devon and Cornwall is a positive step in this direction and will give young technicians access to a range of alternative courses to fulfil their potential. As well as making different training routes available it is important to shout about their value in local schools and colleges, to ensure that all students have the confidence to pursue a tech career.
Another part of the challenge is overcoming the traditional stereotypes of technology professionals. There is a perception that working in technology demands genius coding ability or rapid cyber security skills, however in reality it requires a broad range of creative and interpersonal skills.
Having a creative mind, savvy problem-solving abilities and business management skills are just as important as technical experience. If you have a passion for technology and enthusiasm to learn, a tech-based role provides the opportunity to develop a variety of desirable skills which support individual and professional development.
National initiatives have also been launched in recent years to improve diversity in the tech industry, such as the QA: Cyber Software Academy for Women which was announced earlier this year to train and place women in cyber security roles. Making the industry as accessible as possible is vital for businesses to hire the best possible talent.
Offer a positive working culture
There are some incredibly talented individuals in the region, as exemplified by South Devon College, Exeter University and Plymouth University, and businesses must offer an exceptional employee experience if they want these individuals to stay and work in the South West.
For anyone starting out in a new role it is important to be in an environment which is stimulating as well as offering great support and benefits. Incentives such as a competitive starting salary, bonus schemes, regular social events or flexible working opportunities will attract workers in the first instance and create a friendly and fun workplace to ensure they stay.
A dynamic environment is key for encouraging staff to enhance their abilities and discover their potential. Providing training and development opportunities is important for staff at any stage in their career, and particularly for graduates who might need a little more support. Given the high competition for skilled tech workers in the area, businesses need to show that they value their employees through a positive and engaging work culture.
The tech skills gap is not unique to the South West, but we can start to combat it by creating more opportunities for young people to learn digital skills, by breaking down the barriers around tech careers and creating inspiring workplaces for staff. If local businesses, tech firms and schools can work together, the region can empower more young people to pursue a future in technology.
Paritor is celebrating new business growth and is excited to be expanding its workforce as a result. The team is looking for a creative and driven individual to come on board as Junior .NET Developer. For further information on the role description and how to apply, please visit: http://www.paritor.com/Home/Careers