Nurturing diverse tech talent within the public sector
I’ve been in recruitment for 15 years and after working across a range of markets, my current specialism is Government & Defence at Sanderson. Through my role, one of my objectives and passions is to build and maintain a strong dialogue with public sector and defence organisations. Conversations I have had with these groups has revealed that within government and defence, there are real issues around diversity in the workplace. How does the public sector attract and retain talent that reflects the broad and diverse nature of society? A crucial point, both because people from varying backgrounds bring different skills & perspectives, and simply, because it’s the right thing to do.
The realisation of this question, together with my role as a councillor on the TechUK Skills & Diversity Council, has made me want to discover more. Recently, I began this journey by taking part in a discussion hosted by SEIDEA (A BAME Women in Cyber initiative).
Here’s what I learnt.
It’s clear that we have a massive (and growing) skills gap in the technology sector within G&D – research suggests there will be 100,000 UK based unfilled roles by 2022. This skills gap has to be addressed in part by a massive improvement in education, not necessarily traditional education – but taking in all forms of learning, up-skilling and re-skilling.
Government is clearly striving to meet this challenge, and doing a fantastic job in facilitating and growing access to education through initiatives like the Cyber Discovery Programme, the ‘Brilliant Civil service Summer Diversity Internship’ and Fast track Apprenticeship. But what is industry doing and how are we promoting it? There are a good number of degree apprenticeships with big tech firms such as EY and Accenture. In addition, many of the Cyber Security courses don’t demand a background in IT, making them more accessible.
To achieve genuine diversity, there’s a real need to make people believe “I can”, rather than question: “can I”? Thankfully, hearing the questions first-hand at the end of the event, it was clear they were accessible to everyone – whether related to qualifications, entry-points or career paths – there was nothing which indicated an audience intimidated by the prospect of the G&D sector. This is good news, but it needs to be shared more widely to grow a potential talent pool. Do we, as an industry and Government do enough to promote the sector? Probably not.
A number of organisations provide avenues to enablement for those who want to work in the cyber sector. However, when the market moves unilaterally, that is when barriers to employment truly drop and access to interested parties is enabled. An example of a business who have moved in this way is the Tech Talent Charter. The industry-wide body had 17 corporate members a few years ago, now, they number over 400 and routinely pool resource to enable constructive dialogue on how industry can improve as one.
Enabling also means communicating effectively, providing accessible solutions, working to the future not the now (retro fitting is not efficient) and listening. It is all very well providing access to markets but it’s of no value if those that need it can’t find it.
Looking back to education, it is essential that both learning and development are enablers; central to the growth of an organisation and its people. Recruiting people not CVs, enabling access to career paths - not jobs, building on people’s skills, experience and knowledge.
Tackling talent shortages in G&D – key takeaways:
- We won’t solve the issue in isolation. Employers and recruiters need to work together to build long-term talent pools.
- Government is doing great work improving access to education, and effective communication is key to enabling access from diverse talent pools.
- Stigma and perceived barriers to entry are being removed – but we need to work to ensure these efforts continue. Securing public sector diversity will be crucial to bridging the tech skills gap and building the required future workforce.
If anyone would like to discuss entering the cyber sector then please do get in touch with myself or Seidea. We would be delighted to have a chat and support you moving forward.
+44 (0) 330 055 2880, +44 (0) 748 430 0887