Tech graduates lack the skills employers need

Despite recent downward pressures on recruitment stemming from fears of what might lie ahead for global economies, huge numbers of tech vacancies remain open across the globe. In the US, tech vacancies to July 2022 were up 49 percent compared to last year, while a ten-year high of 870,000 tech and digital job vacancies in the UK was matched by a steady growth in tech job opportunities in continental Europe.

With employer demand for tech talent still at healthy levels, many of these vacancies can be described as 'hard to fill' with employers reporting difficulty in finding suitable candidates. So what is stopping employers from finding suitable candidates for their jobs? The key here is suitable candidates.

The supply of trained tech-savvy people is also growing, especially from Central Europe, as citizens realize the exponential career opportunities offered by global tech firms, and those firms recognize the benefits of nearshoring and the huge pool of available talent, from Romania to Poland.

Even though thousands come through our tech training every year, the amount of talent required is still huge. Against this supply shortage background, graduates of typical tech courses might expect that securing a job would be easy. However we are seeing that this is not always the case. Whether the candidate graduated from a university degree or specialist tech training delivered by a commercial training provider, common themes around the employability of many of these graduates emerge.

As a provider of tech talent to global firms, we liaise with HR teams and understand what constitutes a 'good team member'. The important point to note here is that they are a 'team member'. There will always be some gurus with specialist expertise who may exhibit idiosyncratic behaviors and 'do their own thing'. However, the stars, the ones who are good team players, that drive the engine of delivery and keep the business running are the people with the right combination of technical skill, to ensure they can solve problems and softer skills such as good communication, collaboration and time management.

In our experience, it is precisely these kinds of softer skills that many graduates of technology training courses lack. Most university courses by their very nature focus largely on academia and research though some do include some element of a 'work placement' to develop real-world skills.

This lack of soft skills means that companies can spend up to six months onboarding new hires before they start delivering real value to their new employers. In our experience, a training methodology that combines hard and soft skills creates graduates that are valuable from day one.

Specialist technology training can suffer from a similarly tight focus and while a candidate might emerge from a course with the technical skills required of say full-stack software development, without a solid set of softer, collaboration skills that candidate will likely be at a disadvantage in the hunt for work. Often these skills are best taught by mentors with multiple years of experience in the field, who accompany a student while learning on real life projects. Having undergone practice oriented education, a candidate stands out from the crowd.

Key soft skills for employability in a tech job

A job candidate with the right technical skills required to satisfy a role’s requirements, should be looking to develop these softer skills to increase the chances of  success in the tech job marketplace.

1. Time and task management

Prioritizing work effectively is critical, focusing on what is important, understanding how much work can be delivered in a given timeframe and delegating or offloading work when there is too much to do helps ensure that delivery goals are met. When those delivery deadlines can’t be met a good understanding of delivery capacity helps in managing the impact of missing those deadlines. Good time management can also lead to a better work-life balance, and less stress.

2. Communication & collaboration

Communicating effectively with peers, subordinates and managers is the bedrock on which  effective collaboration stands. Whether a developer from Poland or Hungary is talking to his team spread across the UK and US, good communication habits help build confidence in the team and early communication of achievements and difficulties helps to ensure that everyone knows what is coming, avoids surprises and ensures that stakeholder expectations can be properly managed.

3. Giving and receiving feedback

Giving and receiving feedback effectively is a skill in and of itself. Regular feedback is critical in high performing teams. It is important that feedback is specific, about behaviors rather than the person and provided in a timely manner. Receiving feedback can be difficult, it can be difficult to avoid defensiveness and it can be helpful to remember that people giving feedback are trying to be constructive and helpful.

Giving and accepting feedback is a difficult skill to master and one that requires regular practice.

4. Presentation skills

Whether walking a handful of close team members through some recent work or briefing a room full of people, tech specialists need to be able to share the output of their work.

There is no substitute for practice and experience with presentation skills. When learning new tech skills candidates should ensure that their training includes plenty of practice in presentation skills alongside their technical training.

We have witnessed a growing importance of soft skills for candidates across Europe and the US. This is especially important as we continue to see tech talent working in hybrid environments, whether in the same country or as part of nearshoring efforts.

Training has changed and students are learning how to learn again in an ever changing technology environment and business world. Being outside of a traditional office environment means that soft skills are more important than ever and need to be woven into all technical training.

Photo Creditpixelheadphoto digitalskillet / Shutterstock

József Boda, CEO of Codecool and Michał Mysiak, CEO of SDA. Codecool and Software Development Academy (SDA) recently merged to become a European digital skilling and sourcing powerhouse. With presence over eight countries, the new organization is on target to train 15,000 - 20,000 people annually in IT skills and work with 400+ corporate partners to provide workforces trained in the most popular technology subjects, from coding, security to Internet of Things and more. 

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