DiversityWe all know by now how crucial diversity is to tackling the growing skills gap that looms large over the tech industry.

Demand for skilled tech professionals is booming across the UK, and there aren’t enough people in the field to fill the new roles being created.

The consequences of vital positions sitting vacant are astronomical. Our economy, our capacity to take advantage of new technology, our ability to innovate and compete in global markets will suffer drastically if we don’t have the talent we need to help us realise our digital vision.

We sorely need to bring new blood into the sector to address this burgeoning skills gap—and with just 17% of tech roles currently filled by women, where we should be looking for this new talent seems obvious.

The needle has barely shifted on the number of women working in the UK’s tech space in more than a decade. And with the number of young people taking IT and computing-related subjects at GCSE dropping, we need to be looking at different solutions to tackle this issue; solutions such as upskilling.

Upskilling could be the answer to not one but two of the tech sector’s most pressing issues, creating a substantial tech workforce that’s both highly skilled and diverse.

Organised drives to help employees learn new skills massively benefit companies, particularly in the face of such stiff competition to hire tech staff. Taking advantage of existing resource and committing to creating talent rather than sourcing it not only puts businesses at an advantage in terms of the skills they’ll have on their teams, it also nurtures a more diverse workforce, which brings a whole swathe of benefits in itself.

There are clearly systemic issues at play that are turning girls and young women away from the tech sector early on in their academic careers, and though steps are being taken to address this disparity, it’ll take time to fix. This is time that businesses don’t have if they want to utilise the latest tech products and digitally transform their operations.

Training, reskilling and supported job transitioning hold open the door for today’s working women to enter what can be an intimidating sector within a supported and familiar environment.

Upskilling internally also means women can develop their careers without quitting their jobs, forking out for degrees, or fitting extra-curricular learning into their schedules; lifestyle changes they may not be in a position to make. Upskilling on the job gives women a path and a space to learn new skills that they might otherwise not have access to.

Initiatives like returnships, in which professionals who’ve taken a career break re-enter the workforce through a structured, paid retraining programme, are hugely appealing to women, who disproportionately leave the workforce to care for children or family members.

Offering upskilling shows that you’re willing to invest in your employees; demonstrating this commitment to supporting your staff sends out a clear and inclusive message, and lets potential future hires from diverse backgrounds know that you have an encouraging environment where they’ll be valued and able to thrive.

Having a robust upskilling programme in place in your organisation can also significantly broaden your access to a more diverse candidate pool. When talent is in short supply, and job-seekers who tick all your boxes are hard to find, knowing you have a pathway in place that can fill in the gaps means you can hire for potential.

And given that women don’t often tend to apply for jobs where they don’t meet 100% of the specification, ditching some of your requirements, safe in the knowledge they can be developed in-house, will boost your choice of candidates and attract enthusiastic, malleable tech talent who may not have much experience yet.

The first step toward reaping the dual rewards of upskilling is to perform a skills gap analysis across your business: What tech skills do you need to succeed? What are you currently missing? Who in your organisation has the talent and the drive to become your next tech superstar?

Once you start levelling the playing field and offering upskilling opportunities to your own staff, not only will you change the face of your workforce for the better, but you’ll be imbued with the skills to carry your business into tomorrow.

Nabila Salem - President - Revolent GroupAbout the author

Nabila Salem is President at world-leading cloud talent creation firm Revolent Group. Nabila has 15 years of leadership experience in professional services, marketing and technology recruitment. She plays an active role in encouraging, supporting, and promoting diversity in the workplace and was recognised in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 List 2019.