Recently, there have been a number of articles published which tell us that there is a significant IT skills shortage.
Some have even quantified the shortage as being as high as 100,000 people, however, I, like many others I know, have not found this to be the case ‘on the ground’ and have struggled to land new roles.
I have been in the IT industry for 32 years, the most recent 12 as a contractor. I am a Chartered IT Professional (CITP) member of the British Computer Society (MBCS) and a Member of the ACS (MACS).
I have held many senior roles, including senior engineer, development manager, CTO, business owner and founder, and in these roles I have led and delivered numerous financial, banking, aviation, advertising, industrial and supply chain solutions to many large organisations.
I am very well aware that I need to keep my skills up to date and I am totally comfortable with the idea that I need to continuously train myself in order to remain competitive and to do so, I am always on the lookout for what the emerging trends are and where I should position myself with specific skills. I then organise any necessary formal training for myself.
My experience of talking with management executives is that they all want to be seen as up-to-date and agile with the latest tech and don't want to be seen as lagging behind, but very few non-IT executives have much idea of what that actually looks like and even less can actually identify the skills that they perceive they are short of unless it directly relates to the business and not IT.
The ‘skills shortage’ is something I have heard only mentioned in senior management circles where it can often be translated to mean that skills cannot be found at the rates they want to pay. And this in turn is used as an excuse to push rates down with the threat of ‘if you won’t work for offshore rates, then we’ll find someone who will’.
Graham Plowman is looking for work. Photo: LinkedIn
I would have thought that the people responsible for working on core business systems would actually be valuable people who should be looked after and paid accordingly – you want the best – these people often know more about a business than anyone else and I would venture to suggest, are as valuable as some senior management because they are the ones who keep core business activity running.
I began a start-up business a few years ago. I built a cloud eLearning platform from scratch and took it to market and secured 3 major clients in Toll, CAE and QCoal within two years.
I would suggest that anyone who has started a business and taken it all the way through as I have done is someone in a very unique position of expertise with a significant skillset and experience because, ultimately, it is this knowledge which is needed to enable any business to succeed.
Yet my experience has been that armed with this skillset, I am considered 'too experienced'. More often than not, businesses seem to be full of people who feel 'threatened' by people like me and are often protective of the 'status quo', lest it becomes apparent that they aren't the experts they have convinced those around them that they are.
I had the CTO of a well-known organisation tell me that because he didn't know any of the companies I had worked for and that because my contracts were mostly 6 months, apparently, I didn't have the experience he was looking for.
I actually had a 100% match with the skills on the job description. No! This is a classic example of a CTO who shouldn't be in his position.
A CTO worth their salt would have heard of Sun Alliance, Virgin Airlines, News Limited, AMP, Australian Defence Force etc.
And they would know that contractors often do short contracts – that’s what contracting is. This is an example of a CTO who has probably never been a contractor and is obviously very limited in his own experience.
And therein is another problem: if business keeps putting the wrong people in senior positions (like the one above), they will never get the 'skills' they say they want!
Recruiting overseas is just a lazy way out. It is normally driven by cost because it is perceived as cheaper to employ overseas people than locals.
Why does the business keep giving me the message that they really don’t want me because they keep creating ‘hoops’ for me to jump through in the form of tests that have no relevance to any practical business scenario? Why aren't I talking with a business person given that it’s their systems I’d be working on?
It is my belief that this is an area where ACS should be leading. ACS should be taking it upon itself to nail down and identify the skills needed in the industry and provide any necessary information or training to its membership, even become a registered training organisation (RTO) if it isn't already – after all, that's what being a member of a professional body is supposed to do. Connect us with those mechanisms and keep the membership abreast with latest trends, technologies and training.
Graham Plowman MACS CITP MBCS is currently looking for new opportunities.