The U.S. job market is approaching full employment, and there is a shortage of talent specifically for technology-focused jobs. As demand for tech skills worldwide grows exponentially, the supply of qualified software developers, coders, and engineers cannot satisfy employers’ hiring needs.
It’s time for HR leaders and business executives to reevaluate their strategies for bridging the tech skills gap. Today’s organizations are in a war for tech talent—but it’s not enough to just focus on recruiting new graduates or wooing passive jobseekers away from other employers; instead, companies should take a new approach and proactively get involved with upskilling their existing workforce by equipping their workers with future-forward tech skills. There are prime opportunities arising for HR professionals to bridge the tech skills gap in their organizations—simply by better capitalizing on the learning potential of current “nontech” employees.
Lack of tech literacy and the resulting cultural divide between tech and nontech employees is a rising and significant threat to companies’ success today. Too many organizations view tech skills as a mysterious province of elite tech talent or as something that exists as a separate culture within the rest of the organization—and this can eventually lead to miscommunications, misunderstandings, and lack of cohesion between tech employees and everyone else.
The truth is tech skills are for everyone, and talented programmers can come from anywhere, even within the walls of your company! In today’s high-tech economy, modern HR leaders cannot afford to let tech become a closed-off silo within the organization as basic tech literacy and coding skills are becoming more important than ever before. And increasingly, prospective employees believe that tech skills are not just the responsibility of individuals to gain for themselves (by getting a degree in Computer Science, etc.) but are the responsibility of employers to provide training and preparation.
A recent survey conducted by Researchscape for my company, Coding Dojo, found that 56% of respondents believe that employers are not doing a good enough job of preparing their workers with future-forward tech skills, 90% of respondents believe that employers have a primary responsibility to enhance their upskilling initiatives, and 34% believe that employers should invest in improving tech skills for nontech workers.
HR professionals have an opportunity to address the tech skills gap not just through recruitment and retention strategies but also with corporate training to boost tech skills of their existing workforce. There are a variety of ways to do this, with different levels of involvement and intensity, such as:
On-site coding workshops: More organizations are starting to provide in-house corporate training to teach programming skills to their existing workforce. It’s become so competitive to recruit new tech talent that it often is easier and more cost-effective to train your own tech workers from within.
“Learn to Code” day: Another option is to host a special training opportunity, such as “Learn to Code” day, to teach your team how to learn enough coding to develop a simple app. This can be a fun teambuilding exercise that can demystify tech skills for your nontech employees—and it can also help to identify some nontech employees who may have a special interest and aptitude for coding and who might be receptive to making a career change and become full-time software developers.
Reimbursing employees for attending coding boot camps: Many employers already have tuition reimbursement programs or financial incentives in place for employees who pursue higher education or earn professional certifications; coding boot camps can be an ideal fit for these same types of existing HR programs. With coding boot camps, employees can take a short sabbatical from work to attend an intensive on-site coding education program to gain immediate competency (in a matter of weeks) in the most in-demand coding languages. Compared to the cost of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, coding boot camps are typically cheaper, faster, and more focused on delivering business-relevant tech skills.
Improving your tech workforce is not just about recruitment. HR leaders can help stay competitive and overcome the tech skills gap by teaching tech skills to an existing workforce. Your next superstar programmer might already be working at your company in a totally different job field. Your next innovative tech solution might come from someone who’s currently working in the mail room. There is a world of underutilized talent waiting to be tapped if HR leaders implement new strategies to get proactive about teaching tech skills.
Michael Choi is the CEO of Coding Dojo, a company that helps people start careers in tech by learning how to code and becoming a software developer in as little as 14 weeks, with on-site and online coding boot camps. And, 94% of Coding Dojo’s alumni land a job within 180 days after graduating, with an average salary of $76,000 per year. Even for students who have no formal IT education or related career background, Coding Dojo can help them graduate with a more versatile skill set, a richer portfolio, and two to three times the job prospects compared to the average coding boot camp grad.