Narrowing the tech industry’s skills gap by shifting mindsets
READ the October 2021 issue of our magazine: The Skills Gaps Conundrum
The Australian market is experiencing an unprecedented demand for technical talent. About 87 per cent of jobs in Australia now require digital skills. To meet the growing demands of businesses, the country will need 156,000 new tech workers by 2025.
In response to this, IBM has doubled the size of our local talent acquisition team in 2021 to keep pace. We also know that we need to look inwards if we want to find a sustainable solution to narrowing the skills gap in Australia and New Zealand.
This context is why we are approaching hiring differently and stepping up our efforts to upskill and reskill our workforce.
Rethinking hiring and learning
Learning should be at the core of organisational DNA. We must constantly expand our skillsets and acquire new knowledge to be able to innovate and deliver technology that solves the world’s greatest challenges. Learning becomes even more critical when you consider that in the Technology industry, the half-life of skills is less than two years.
Along with learning, Australian organisations have to reframe the approach to hiring to become even more inclusive in talent acquisition practices, creating more pathways for skilled talent to enter the workforce. Broadly, here are three strategies that are helping us address the skills gap in Australia:
Hiring capability over credentials: IBM has been transforming the way we hire and one of the key changes we’ve made is to focus more on skills than credentials. We’re moving away from expecting and requiring formal qualifications. Instead, we’re looking for experiential learning and diversity in experience. As part of this transformation, we have focused on creating what we call ‘new collar’ jobs. These are roles that are neither blue nor white-collar and don’t always require a bachelor’s degree or previous career in IT.
Three programs are helping us grow our pool of new collar talent in Australia and New Zealand: neurodiversity, Pathways in Technology P-TECH (Pathways in Technology) and, most recently, tech re-entry.
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We have also recently welcomed our second cohort of neurodivergent hires in Australia and New Zealand. Through our Neurodiversity Program, IBM aims to open up opportunities for and hire more neurodiverse talent.
As HR Director, I’ve met candidates with great skills and aptitudes who have taken non-traditional career paths – and many of them have proven to be strong hires for IBM. I believe that by looking beyond bachelor’s degrees and conventional career paths, Australian organisations can improve their ability to secure skills.
Invest in building a skills pipeline: We need to create more career pathways if we want more skilled individuals to join our industry. Reskilling and investing in industry partnerships are crucial – and so are inclusive workplace policies, such as those offering opportunities for underrepresented minorities to develop tech skills.
Last year, we launched IBM SkillsBuild for job seekers in Australia. This free learning and workplace readiness platform helps individuals to build the skills they need to enter or re-enter the workforce. When they complete a course, they earn a ‘micro-credential’ to help them find jobs or progress in their careers.
Focus on internal mobility: In 2020, we took the opportunity to pause, reflect and refocus on enabling internal career mobility. Employee careers and skills are a business imperative for us. And as such, we’ve made it easier for IBMers to switch roles, take on new projects, move up within the company or find a mentor. Over the last few months, our talent acquisition, and careers and skills teams have been working to transform the IBM career experience.
Shifting mindsets and changing public policies
While critical, the skills gap is also an opportunity for all companies to rethink and innovate talent acquisition and retention, and career learning practices. Businesses need to reconsider their approach to hiring and capability development to help navigate and succeed in this post-COVID era.
We are helping close the skills gap and make the technology sector more inclusive by focusing on new collar opportunities and shifting mindsets in our industry. But we also recognise that a problem as fundamental as a lack of skilled talent requires more than just individual company or industry efforts.
So even as we step up our own recruiting and learning initiatives, we are calling on policymakers to expand career-oriented funding and training to ensure workforces are equipped for success in the new roles of today and tomorrow.