We start 2018 with an article by Sarah Foxley, an ex-heritage professional who is now in her 2nd year with The Open University studying Computing and IT. She provides some real insights as to how we can make a difference by investing in adult education for career changers as well as the younger generation.
Why career changers are just as important as the next generation
This autumn the UK Government announced a raft of measures to support the tech industry. One welcome piece of news was a £20 million fund for training 14-18-year olds to be the next generation of Cyber Security experts. Investment in the next generation is crucial but we need to be careful about focusing all our energy there.
Take for example a 14-year-old enrolled on this new scheme. Potentially it could be up to 7 years before they graduate from an IT degree and enter their first job. Also, not everyone who enrols in such a scheme will follow through to an eventual IT career, especially where minority groups are concerned. The 2016 BCS Women in IT Scorecard suggests that of those girls who study computing pre-GCSE only 12% of them will go on to gain relevant degrees and work in the sector. By focusing solely on the next generation, we risk putting all our eggs into one basket when it comes to the future of tech but what do we do?
Investing in adults
There is an obvious answer - invest in adults too. Tech is leading to great changes in the workplace with more and more roles becoming automated. As a result, more people are looking to change careers. There are many benefits to encouraging career changers into tech, for businesses and those career changers themselves.
As if this wasn’t enough, encouraging and employing older career changers could also be a way of tackling diversity issues here and now rather than years in the future. Diversity in tech is a substantial problem with a huge disparity between the makeup of the workforce compared to the population. A recent diversity report BCS found only 17% of IT professionals were women, 8% were disabled, and 21% were over 50. Compare that with the current population where 51% are women, 23% are disabled and 45% are aged over 50. By encouraging career changers from these groups to work in tech we could see a more rapid change in the makeup of our sector.
What businesses can do
As a business if you’re convinced by the argument you are probably wondering what you can do.
I want to change to a career in tech…
Whilst businesses can work at making themselves more attractive to the older career changer they also need a pool of potential applicants. Changing career is a daunting prospect but it needn’t be terrifying or prohibitively expensive. Here are a few tips on what you can do.
The technology sector is growing rapidly with twice as many jobs being created than in other sector (TechNation 2017). At the same time as investing in the next generation we need to find a way to fill the gaps we have now. Do this by supporting those of us who are 30+, willing to retrain and would love to come and work for you. It could make an amazing difference to your business.
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