How small businesses can bridge the tech skills gap

The tech skills gap is widening with each passing year in the UK, and we need to be clever if we’re going to find a way to bridge it, says Paul Haydock.

The tech skills gap is widening with each passing year in the UK, and we need to be clever if we’re going to find a way to bridge it.

According to the Hays Global Skills Index, 2016 is the fifth year in a row that our digital skills base has taken a beating, with many university degrees offering neither the technical or vocational knowledge that businesses today want and need.

A good example is computer science. Universities tend to review their computer science course syllabuses every four years, and a new syllabus takes two years to implement. Considering how rapidly computer science is advancing and evolving, it’s not surprising that graduates are emerging from university fresh-faced and keen but ultimately lacking in the skills a tech-based business needs from new recruits.

This situation presents a problem for businesses, particularly small businesses and start-ups, and not just in the tech sector. The tech skills gap across the board has worsened by 8 per cent since 2011, and a survey of 9,000 UK companies has reported that one in four vacancies are proving difficult to fill as a result.

A fresh batch of eager grads may seem like a goldmine for businesses looking for new blood but, for most SMEs, hiring them fresh out of university generally isn’t a viable option. Any business who hires them will have to invest a great deal of time and money into retraining them. We, for example, couldn’t possibly take our senior devs off important projects to up-skill such a junior member staff, much as we’d like to be able to.

However, businesses can still get around this problem if they adopt a slightly more shrewd approach to recruitment.

Drill down into the sector

What they need to do is forget about recruitment agencies and check out the competition themselves. They need to take a closer look at other companies in their sector and find out who they are hiring, what their skills are and if they’d be a good fit for the business in terms of personality and outlook.

To do this, they need to look beyond the CV and scrap formal interviews, swapping them instead for informal, face-to-face chats and tours of the business. It’s more about them selling the company to the candidate rather than the other way around.

In my opinion this is the way forward for smart recruiting. They say that the very best people are already in a job and probably happy there, so businesses need to put a little planning, time and strategy into sniffing out the right talent and then working out how you’re going to tempt them over.

We recently managed to attract a former Apple engineer, Dylan Smith, all the way from London. He was already working his magic in his previous role when we approached him, and now we’re reaping the incredible benefits of the skills he’s brought up north with him. Had we relied on standard recruitment practices, this may have been another story entirely.

This is a perfect example of how SMEs can get around the current skills gap issue and, in our opinion, the best way forward for smart recruitment in the future.

Paul Haydock is CEO and co-founder of DueCourse

Further reading on tech skills gap

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

Related Topics

Skills gap

Leave a comment