We all know there is a skills shortage in IT, especially when it comes to recruiting the right people with the right skills. It suggests the pool of specifically skilled IT labour is shrinking, or is our reliance on tech fuelling the IT skills shortage, possibly both? 

My interest is in IT skills assessments, in particular using the international framework SFIA (Skills Framework for the Information Age). I spoke to a potential client about screening job applicants for IT positions so that their organisation could be sure of getting the right skills for the right job. The response I got was “We throw our net far and wide in a hope we catch the right fish” and “We won’t screen because that will decrease our chances of catching a fish that might suit the role”. Yes, those comments meant I wasn’t getting any business out of this organisation, but it did get me thinking.   

There are more IT job vacancies than there are IT professionals.  Can our education system help feed the pipeline of up-and-coming IT professionals?  No doubt in time, young adults will be given the opportunity to upskill to a level that an organisation would consider suitable. We know that apprentice and graduate schemes are on the up.

Education does offer the fundamentals and the gearing up of young adults for life in the big world.  Nowadays, young people have grown up with tech and so it’s a matter of coaching in the right direction. Skills management starts with an employee as soon as you take them on. They may have fallen into a job which they never thought they would be doing.  This goes back to the comments above, organisations casting their net wide in a hope they catch someone who might suit the role.

Organisations armed with huge nets, casting into the sea of skills, need to have a plan to upskill that person so they can get up to speed as quickly as possible. In the present time employers are not going to get the exact fit unless they are very good with their skills fishing techniques and must understand that they would be lucky to find an exact fit. The probability of taking on an applicant without skills gaps is highly unlikely. You will need to understand those gaps and manage the individual's development if you were to take them on. Perhaps offer an extended period of induction to develop then within a specific timeframe.  

Do you manage a recruitment, onboard and training process to cope with an influx of IT job applicants that may not be fully aligned to your skill needs? If you are fishing in open waters, will you know what skills gaps these applicants need to plug?

Having a graduate and/or an apprenticeship programme will give you growth from the ground up. However, it takes time to grow your own – great if you have that time!  Adopting a skills management approach throughout your recruitment processes allows you to employee those individuals who are a close fit, but not quite. You will need to develop a process of mapping the skills a role is expected to have, to understand the skills gaps of a potential applicant. They may have certain skills gaps that you can live with but in time you will expect them to obtain those skills with your help.

In order to be successful in taking on partially skilled employees you need to know what those gaps are. SFIA allows each role to have a core skill profile.  Assessing applicants against the skills of the role will help you find out what you are letting yourself in for if you do decide to take on a partial fit. 

The point is you need to assess the individuals against the skills you are looking for so you can manage a training plan. To those who believe we don’t need to assess potential applicants in the recruitment process or have specific skills mapped to job roles, can I ask you to reconsider?  How else will you know what skills gaps the applicant has that you may need to plug if you take them onboard?

Going forward, to take on partially skilled individuals, look to map the core skills needed in a role and know what's missing if you were to take on a such an applicant. Introduce a skills assessment process, or at least be armed with questions surrounding what skills are needed in the role. A more robust induction programme and perhaps a bigger training budget is possibly needed to help those needing help. Consider changing employment contracts, asking the individual for some form of commitment to achieve a particular level of skill within a set period of time. After all you will be taking on a partially skilled person and investing in them so it’s only fair.

We have skills management tools to help you map your roles, from a FREE IT role profile builder to full global management of IT skills across your organisation. 

For a FREE consultation on how SFIA can help you get in touch email: [email protected]