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How to Create Hiring Practices to Tackle the Tech Skills Gap

Jeff Mazur
Updated Sep 01, 2022

Your business needs to think creatively to hire the best new tech employees.

The conversation around companies attempting to close the skills gap is ongoing, but sustainable solutions, thus far, have been dismal. Earlier this year, CareerBuilder reported 45 percent of HR managers could not fill open positions due to lack of qualified talent.

The problem lies in the way companies define “qualified.” With university tuition costs skyrocketing yearly, the ability to actually meet traditional hiring standards is becoming exclusive to those who can afford it. And as more companies evolve to meet the needs of a more digital consumer, unfilled tech positions are climbing at an even quicker rate. Glassdoor predicted huge growth in tech hiring among “non-tech” companies over the next year and for over 250,000 new software developer positions created by 2026.

The numbers say it all  the dependence on university graduates to fill open tech positions has to be a thing of the past. With universities producing less than 40,000 computer science graduates a year, it’s quite clear traditional education pathways simply do not, and will not, produce the amount of tech talent needed to keep up with industry demands.

Companies need to start finding sustainable ways to recruit and hire talent from unconventional pathways. The tech talent shortage is a problem that’s not going away, but the good news is your talent pool is wider than you think when you look in different places. Here are some ways your company can tackle this issue now, so it doesn’t affect your bottom line in the future.

Stop searching for the perfect resume

Your traditional job posting most likely includes a lengthy list of qualifications that includes degree and past work experience requirements. This may have been an effective way for your company to find the perfect candidate a decade ago, but in the digital age, specific resume requirements shut out a lot of talented individuals. And if you’re looking for tech talent proficient in newer technologies and programming languages, requiring a minimum amount of work experience can deter younger candidates who may be even more qualified than their more senior peers. Degree requirements have a similar effect. Lots of today’s junior programmers are self-taught or honed their skills at a bootcamp.

Ditch the long list of credentials and tap into a new world of tech talent. Hiring for credentials often means hiring for pedigree. A candidate with a degree from an impressive university and a prestigious internship may translate to the candidate with the most money and connections. Instead, search for motivation, drive and a hunger for learning new skills. Many traits that make up a great employee can’t be found on a resume. The 2017 Job Preparedness Indicator Survey conducted by the Career Advisory Board revealed hiring managers consider things like work ethic, high integrity and accountability the most important traits when hiring entry-level talent. The perfect candidate and team member may not have the perfect resume, but it’s up to companies to discover them.

Turn to alternative sources for talent

Depending on the same universities and colleges for your entry-level talent pipeline will produce the same results: a talent pool that’s drying up. It’s up to companies to seek out alternative sources for recruiting fresh candidates. Increasing tuition prices means many aspiring technologists are going elsewhere to learn new skills.

Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit management organization in the U.S., is a great example of filling a need from alternative sources. They turned to LaunchCode to recruit and train Pega developers after struggling to fill open programmer positions at their St. Louis headquarters. The partnership resulted in Express Scripts choosing 24 applicants to be trained in the language, 23 of whom were them transitioned into paid apprenticeships. Choosing to fill a specific, digital need with an innovative solution allowed Express Scripts to create a new pipeline of junior talent they may never have cultivated using traditional recruiting methods.

Finding new places to look for unconventional talent takes some creative thinking, but the results are worth the work. Next time you’re having trouble filling an open entry-level position, consider community college and trade schools, coding camps and bootcamps, nonprofit workforce training programs, online communities and other nontraditional training initiatives.

Grow your own talent with apprenticeship and mentorship

With new technologies constantly emerging and digital trends changing rapidly, many companies have specific needs when it comes to filling new job positions. What better way to fill distinct needs than to grow your own talent? By utilizing apprenticeship programs, companies can fill a gap by molding candidates to fit a specific skill set. Plus, the apprentice benefits by learning from a senior employee and gains on-the-job, real-life experience. Yet, according to The Brookings Institution, the scope of American companies who participate in apprenticeship programs is a small fraction compared to other developing countries.

Another huge benefit of implementing an apprenticeship program within your company is having a flexible talent pool that can keep up with industry trends. The most effective apprenticeship programs provide accelerated, industry-relevant training and are easily integrated with your current onboarding practices. Luckily, there’s lots of external apprenticeship programs for companies that don’t have the capacity to create their own.

As the industry changes, skills-based hiring will becoming more valuable than ever before. The dire need for fresh tech talent isn’t going away. Ensure your company can find and hire the best candidate possible to fill the digital jobs you have open now, as well as the jobs that will be created in the future.

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Jeff Mazur
Jeff Mazur is the Executive Director of LaunchCode. In that role, he oversees a growing nonprofit that builds the tech workforce in markets across the U.S. by providing free, high-quality skilling and job placement to driven individuals who lack typical credentials. Previously, Jeff served as Executive Director of the Missouri-Kansas affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and as Senior Adviser to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia and the Georgetown University Law Center. He lives in Saint Louis with his wife Mindy and twin daughters.