Overcoming the skills shortages in the IT Channel

“Skills shortages are high on the agenda for all industries and pose a serious threat to growth and retention. We recently consulted with the IT channel to look at how they’re safeguarding their business.”

– Wallace Hind

Identifying the issue

Following the recent launch of the CRN A list I noticed a number of channel leaders talking about the skills gap crisis that is affecting the sector and the additional challenges of attracting and retaining talent.

This obviously isn’t an issue just facing the IT sector, with most areas of industry also citing skills shortages as one of their top concerns for future growth. In the latest Recruitment Industry Trends report released by REC, employers are having to operate in continued uncertain economic circumstances and are looking to the industry for increasing support for skills and legislative challenges.

So what are businesses doing to combat this? I contacted some of my peers working within the IT channel and asked them what advice they had:

Dave Stevinson, Managing Director, QBS Software Ltd.

“At QBS we have a mantra of ‘where great people work together’. Thus a considerable amount of resource is invested in finding co-workers where  1: Our values align, 2: They have the required skills and 3: We are the right employer for them to deploy their talents. In terms of skills gaps, that can always be trained, what we seek is the alignment of values.”

Julia Knudsen, Talent Acquisition Manager, CMS Distribution Ltd.

“In this candidate driven market, it is competitive but in order to retain your talent, you have to invest in them.”

From my own experience as a specialist recruiter I’ve seen first-hand the benefit of putting in place a sophisticated recruitment programme that not only encourages new and emerging talent, but also incorporates clear progression structures and formal training opportunities to nurture and support their staff at every stage of their career. For some companies like Softcat this has become common practice and as a result they have a fantastic graduate programme in place and a great reputation as an employer of choice.

Taking this long-term approach to bringing in junior talent and training them from the bottom up will require a significant push and change of direction for many employers, but one that is crucial if we are to avoid the potential ‘risk of the UK being left behind in the global skills race’ – according to new research published by City and Guilds Group this month.

This recent report cites some pretty scary percentages with only 54% of UK employers forecasting a rise in Learning and Development investment, and only 66% of UK workers thinking their employer is keeping pace with the changing skills needs.

It’s not all doom and gloom however, these stats although concerning give us valuable insight and opportunity, and for many businesses small changes can have a significant impact. More and more of my clients are setting up graduate schemes and apprenticeship opportunities and I’ve been working with many of them on some simple employer branding techniques and talent mapping exercises that are revolutionising the way they attract and retain clients.

For those companies in the channel struggling to fill crucial roles and losing out to bigger businesses my advice would be: –

Thanks to my peers for their input on this hot topic, whether you’re in the IT channel or not, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the skills shortage agenda and what actions you’re taking to safeguard your own business.

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