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The Quiet Revolution of Junior Tech Careers 

According to TechNation, the number of rapidly growing UK tech companies soared as venture capital investment increased by 44% in 2019. Growth in VC investment exceeded 40% for the third year in a row. This placed the UK above european counterparts and behind just the USA and China in terms of overall performance. 

Bright future for the UK tech scene, right? Well, in the face of this continued growth, entries into tech careers from universities are stalling despite growth in applications. 

Computer science is rated as the 4th fastest growing degree in terms of applicants but, according to the Bank of England’s Agent’s summary of business conditions for Q2 2018, computer science graduates have the highest unemployment rate of all degree disciplines – sitting at 9%.

The data, although not demonstrating any causality, certainly paints a correlation: More students are starting tech degrees, but few are finding graduate jobs despite massive growth in the industry.

As this tech talent shortage propagates, employers are looking for new sources of talent. 

 

Un-Learning

When Purnima Sen started her career in technology there was no clear path set out for her. With a degree and a masters in economics, Purnima ended up in technology almost by accident.  

Now she’s driving a quiet revolution for graduate careers in tech as Operations and People Director at Sparta Global. 

“Someone once said education is what you remember once you forget everything you were taught at school. We want to give graduates the education that they will remember”

Sparta Global is, at its core, an IT consultancy. They provide companies an alternative to traditional IT contracting through the development and integration of fresh technical talent.

Their training course, for which Purmina has taken a range of different awards including diversity hirer of the year, spans an 8-12 week period that focuses on developing problem solving and soft skills over technical knowledge.

“You come out of university with all this book knowledge that you’ll quickly find has a short shelf life.” 

“The training is all about helping them work smarter, not harder and giving them the tools to continuously develop themselves.” 

“With every generation there is a certain change that is happening within the world that go on to define the character of the person coming into work” 

 

Tearing Down the Red-brick Wall

At the time of publishing this article (06/02/20) National Apprenticeship Week UK is reaching its end with companies and individuals up and down the country sharing their Apprenticeship story. 

According to education charity The Edge Foundation, there will be an estimated one million technology vacancies in Britain by 2020.

As the demand for technically skilled talent grows, the road into tech careers broadens and forks.

One such path being tread more often by those passionate about technology is the apprenticeship path. 

There’s an estimated 15,000 new youngsters seeking hi-tech apprenticeships in Britain every year. And, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), companies are increasingly turning to apprenticeships as a strategic measure to cope with the high employment rate of students leaving the education system under-equipped for a role in tech.

In England, employers offer apprenticeships to people aged 16 and above, with apprenticeships equivalent up to degree level. Employers work with training providers to offer a combination of on-the-job training and education, with funding provided by the Government.

Titus Learning, a certified Moodle Partner providing smartly tailored e-learning services for workplace learning, education providers and training companies around the world has seen first hand the growth of tech apprenticeships. 

Facilitating the self-development of technically minded individuals, Titus Learning is knocking down the red-brick wall built around a career in technology one brick at a time. 

“In tech we still have this very traditional mindset of: If I go get my masters, I’ll never be out of work – that’s just not the case anymore.” 

Sebastian Francis is Titus’ Co-founder, Director and champion for self-development and learning. 

After dropping out of University, Seb has been using e-learning platforms since taking his first junior sales role and continues to do so despite the success of his start up. 

“Even I’ll be at conferences or events and people will what degree I have and when I say I don’t people take a step back and they start to ask questions like ‘how did you get here?’.” 

Our experience with hiring for the technology ecosphere directly mirrors Sebastian’s sentiments. Of the thousands of technology vacancies we fill, we’re seeing increased emphasis on the demonstration of commitment and passion for self development. 

In our own experience, clients understand the importance of a university education, believing it is, sweeping generalisations aside, an indicator of more strategic thinking, but if the candidate is interviewing for a development role, the client will, without a doubt,  be much more excited by an Android app or Ruby on Rails website that they built in their own time than a list of achievements. 

Something echoed by Google’s Head of People Operations, Prasad Setty:

“For years, candidates were screened according to SAT scores and college grade-point averages, metrics favored by its founders. But numbers and grades alone did not prove to spell success at Google and are no longer used as important hiring criteria”

The success of Titus Learning is certainly one sign post that points towards the growing popularity of apprenticeships as an entry into a tech career in the eyes of employers, but if we are truly going to widen gap for new talent in technology change must come from the top of the tech hiring foodchain. 

 

Driving Change From the Very Top

The Linkedin Insights list for the top employers of Junior Software Engineers wouldn’t surprise anyone. Google, Facebook, Amazon and IBM take the top 4 spots. 

These companies are taking massive pieces of the UK tech talent pie which is continuing to flourish. 

In 2018 the UK continued to remain a hotbed for tech talent, employing 5% of all high-growth tech workers globally. This places the UK ahead of Japan, France and Indonesia.

In the UK, Insurtech and Fintech were the biggest employers among high-growth digital tech firms in 2018, employing 24% and 18% of the high-growth workforce respectively.

And despite the likes of Google and Amazon having good alternatives to graduate entry, it’s IBM, a company without the sex appeal of it’s other, mass hiring counterparts, that is truly driving change for entry careers into tech.

Alan Grogan, Executive Partner and Service Line Leader for Advanced Analytics, Cognitive Solutions, Data Platforms, Internet of Things and Watson Healthcare, at IBM Global Business Services,  UK & Ireland understands the value of broadening the tech talent pool. 

“It’s not just graduates, we as a community, we need to get tighter all levels of education and start pulling the right levers.” 

“We need diversity of thought.”

This methodology runs all the way through IBM, as Jenny Taylor, UK graduate, apprentice and student programme leader at IBM points out: “Apprentices can learn deep technical skills [on the job, in real-life situations] and often progress rapidly up the organisational career ladder,” she says.

“In the past few years, IBM has found that apprenticeship retention is high and they are highly valued employees. Not only that, they often outperform graduates.”

 

Broadening A Stagnating Talent Pool

Tech has such a wealth of opportunity for those who hold a passion for it. The changing perception of an entry level tech career,  led by business leaders across the industry, will do nothing but broaden and diversify a stagnating talent pool.