Education and businesses must work more closely to address one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today says Cloud Technology Solutions head of people Erica Yates.
She believes that getting more women interested in tech, recruiting them and keeping them is something that the industry is crying out for, but that the problem comes from a bigger issue that needs tackling first.
“The shortage of females in the industry stems from a wider issue that affects not just women, but anyone aspiring to achieve in a modern-day business career. That issue is the much-discussed digital skills gap,” she said.
It’s no secret that the digital skills gap is widening, says Yates, and we live in an age where this affects not only the technology industry but the business sector as a whole.
“Businesses that can’t keep up with the rapidly expanding digital realm face the threat of lowered productivity, higher recruitment fees, increased competition and a resulting reduction in profit margins,” she said.
“Firms in various different industries need tech-savvy employees to stay ahead of the game, but we face a shrinking and outdated home-grown talent pool – which is why it’s more important than ever to get more females interested in the sector.”
To tackle the issue there needs to be a partnership of responsibility between the education system and UK businesses says Yates.
“The way we educate people, both male and female, when it comes to tech is still outdated and – while coding and digital skills are now part of the curriculum in some schools and we’ve introduced new qualifications such a T-levels – it is not reflective of where the industry will be in years to come,” she said.
“In many cases the opportunity to study digital topics in any business-applicable detail isn’t available to youngsters until university level, by which time most of them have already decided on their chosen career path.”
Yates also believes that tech-related university degrees move too slowly to keep up with the fast-moving industry, so graduates are finding their knowledge is already out of date.
“On the flip-side of the coin, we have recruiters and HR managers who aren’t tech-savvy enough themselves to truly understand where and how the gap needs bridging,” she said.
“This can lead to huge recruitment costs for businesses while sourcing talent that perhaps falls short of what’s needed.”
To address the problem, we need to take it back to the education system and give children more of an insight into how tech is actually applied in business said Yates.
“The educational system needs to take an agile approach to tech learning that is backed by relevant businesses, creating a seamless environment in which children can learn and apply their skills in the business world,” she said.
“This means making computer courses available to children at school through sponsorship from partnering businesses.
“It means allowing tech businesses to have input in the curriculum of university courses. It means creating an overlap between educational courses and working in industry, to create a young talent pool in both men and women, whose skills can be applied in business, rather than just in theory.”
Erica believes that this move will also ultimately encourage more tech-savvy females into the industry by introducing them to the digital career path from the very beginning and allowing them access to wider opportunities throughout their education.