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How do you solve a problem like diversity in tech?

Last Tuesday, Mayden Academy joined companies including Nationwide, Uber, Hewlett-Packard, Sky, BT and Lloyds Banking Group to support the launch of the Tech Talent Charter 2019 benchmarking report. 

Tech Talent Charter is a collaborative network of companies striving for a more diverse tech workforce in the UK, with a particular focus on achieving gender balance. Mayden Academy was proud to become a signatory to the charter in 2018.

The 2019 benchmarking report looks at the current state of the signatory companies, from micro companies to multinationals, across all sectors, and including public, private, and not for profit organisations.

One of the key highlights of the report looks at the challenges and opportunities filling gaps in the skills pipeline with a more diverse tech workforce. In particular, it points out the huge potential in women returning to work after a break, or retraining for a career change.

The skills gap problem

It is no secret that the tech sector needs more skilled people. The UK technical skills gap is widely acknowledged in the industry and beyond, and detailed in reports such as Tech Nation’s 2017 survey ‘Tech City UK’. Software development, in particular, has been identified as an area where the availability of skilled employees has not kept pace with the rate they are needed to sustain business growth.

Attracting more women and other underrepresented groups into tech is an obvious way to meet demand – as well, of course, as being the right thing to do. The aim is multifold: to help eliminate unwarranted bias in our society, to bring much needed new talent into the industry, and to help to create a more effective workforce with a broader range of outlook and experience. But we also recognise that this is about encouraging women back into a computer programming profession that they, historically, helped to invent, develop, and sustain.

In a speech at the event, Margot James MP, Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Only 19% of our workforce in tech roles are female and furthermore, only 11.7% of computer science A Level students are women. And still, there is a digital skills gap we need to fill, despite the fact that digital jobs pay almost a third more than non-digital jobs it is proving a difficult gap to fill.”

Retraining – a huge opportunity for diversity in tech

One of the report’s core calls to action for signatory companies is to support returners and retraining. The report says “Our signatories are facing the dual challenges of using traditional routes to fill vacancies and the length of time it is taking for changes in the education system to affect the talent pipeline. Because of this, new approaches are essential.”

To highlight this point, during the event Tech Talent Charter CEO Debbie Forster MBE asked for a show of hands of anyone who was still in a role from their original field of study. In a room of 200 or more people, representing some of the leading tech companies in the UK, only a tiny minority raised their hand.

The reality is that most people make one or more career changes in their working life. For caregivers, who in this country are still overwhelmingly women, that could be a second career following a career break for family. Retraining is a major potential source of future tech talent and its potential is huge, particularly for historically underrepresented groups such as women.

We are proud to be playing our part in this sea change; 84% of Mayden Academy students are those who are changing career, or have been through university and found it did not offer them the up to date skills needed by employers.

How Mayden Academy are helping to drive change

As one speaker pointed out, we now need to reskill the workforce every 10 years to keep pace with innovation and its impact on work. The age we now live in, the fourth industrial revolution, demands a different approach to training. As the speaker went on to point out, it cannot take “3 to 4 years” to teach someone new technologies, nor to expect that that is where the learning ends.

Our own Full Stack Track is a stand out example of an intensive 16 week program that trains people to go into their first software developer role from a standing start. The condensed amount of time makes it a more practical route into a new career for returners or career changers, given the much shorter length of time (and financial cost) required in comparison to university study.

But what about the quality of training itself? In order to keep the course as relevant as possible within this climate of constant change, we review the curriculum at the end of every course. As well as looking at our own understanding of new technologies, we seek feedback from students and advice from our large networking of hiring partners. We are also agile enough to change the course content mid-program if necessary – in fact, we have previously had trainers rewriting lesson plans overnight to take account of technological change, ensuring that students have the most up to date teaching possible.

Apprenticeships and upskilling

We’ve also identified that apprenticeships offer a valuable support structure in getting returning parents, particularly mums, back into work, and are pleased that our first apprentices will be training with us in February 2019. A more diverse range of studying options means a more diverse range of students.

Along with this, we work with businesses to upskill their existing teams with bespoke business training – whether it is training people to move from support roles to tech, or training existing developers on new technologies and processes. We believe that lifelong learning is beneficial and fulfilling for everyone, businesses and individuals alike.

Do we think what we do can help to fill the skills gap and increase diversity in tech? Well, since launching in 2015, we’ve maintained a 100% success rate of graduates receiving employment offers within 90 days of graduating, built amazing relationships with businesses who need dev talent across the UK, and kept up a 5 star rating across all independent ranking sites. The demand is clearly there, and we are happy to help meet it.

 

Want to retrain for a career in software development? Study with us.

Want to hire one of our software developers or take on an apprentice? Get in touch.