Why boot camp-style training may hold the key to the great tech staff shortage

It’s well known that Australia is facing a shortage of tech workers, as demand outstrips the number of skilled workers becoming available through either traditional university training or the importation of overseas workers.

Deloitte Digital CEO Peter Williams believes boot camp-style inductions offer the best hope of having enough tech staff to meet future demand and points to companies such as Telstra and General Assembly, recently purchased by Adecco, as leading the way.

“We are in a place where it’s hard to find staff, where the growth and rise of the digital economy in tech people has continued to grow as tech becomes more prevalent in our lives,” Mr Williams said. “However, running next to that growth hasn’t been a growth in skilled talent in this space. There has been a low involvement of what we call ‘formal technology skills-based education and upskilling’.

“One of the reasons for this is the diversity of skills required when you run large digital outfit. Everyone assumes it is all about coding but we are not just after coders. We also employ designers, program managers, software engineers, testers and anthropologists - a broad skillset.

“As the world increasingly becomes digital, there is more need for people who can build stuff, glue stuff and design stuff.

“But the enrolment of students hasn’t kept pace with the demand. So if my strategy is to employ people with a university degree, I need to look at how can I be resourceful and access those skills.

“Importing those skills is the way it’s going and will need to continue going.”

Mr Williams said the changing face of tech meant it was increasingly difficult to find world-class workers with user and design experience.

“Twenty years ago, if you had someone setting up a wireless network back end at home, they would have had to have a degree. Now you just turn on your phone and it works.

“This is because the people building these are software developers who have a design focus. Design work is not so much the decorating and development side of the work, it’s more about getting out there in coalface understanding, observing, prototyping and trying new stuff and seeing how customers use products.

“Designers should never be more than one metre away from the product and they should be adept at observing people in the world. They should be focused on how people are using the technology and completing the tasks.

“Are they doing in public transport or at work? What’s the environment that they are in? Have we designed it in a way people want it?”

General Assembly and Telstra’s programs were examples of what could be achieved. They looked at what skills they would need in the future, found people with an interest in an area and started intensive training to upskill them.

“They look for a nugget of interest in an area they can upskill and take it from there,” he said. “This is a proactive approach and where the world is heading to overcome skill shortages.

“In the past, we would bring people in from other countries but that is getting harder and a politicalissue ideology.”

General Assembly’s boot camp-style training model was upskilling workers in three months, instead of three years, he said.

The training was run by people involved in the industry and up-to-date with current skills.

“By the time someone finishes a three-year degree, they could actually need more upskilling whereas these boot camps make them ready to go,” he said.

“I am very impressed with Adecco’s model and believe this is what more recruitment companies need to do to move up the supply chain and be future ready for what employers need.

“This shows recruitment companies are needing to be more at the coalface and experiencing and understanding what employers are looking for.

“At present it’s about creating a fast track/funnel of work-ready skilled staff who can be placed in a role immediately.

“Adecco’s model shows a deeper understanding of current and constant updated work modes. It’s based on peer learning and collaboration.

“PWC and KPMG are doing something similar – programs that rapidly ramp up workers’ digital skills.

“They are creating environments where people can engage and learn these capabilities and be exposed to the nature of what they do.

“It’s all about creating talent pools and cross-curating talent pools. Expanding their thinking, being adaptive and trying new things.

“The lesson here is look at your talent pool, reskill and create an environment that encourages self-development because traditional educational models alone won’t be enough.”

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