By Om Ruparel, Managing Director and Founder of digital recruitment agency,

The skills shortage situation in the tech and telecoms industries is a huge problem and one that isn’t going to be resolved without changes being made. 

Competition for the most talented candidates has heated up extraordinarily over the past two years, with a large part of the problem being that talent and employers are opting for freelance.

So many of the existing experts work as freelancers, the problem being that freelancers charge almost double what an in house employee would be paid.

This has a serious knock on effect in a number of ways.

Young, new employees are being drawn to freelance work due to the higher pay rates, but are not yet ready to work on such a basis.

Those contractors who are good are only more expensive because they have excellent expertise.

This will, and is, causing expertise shortages across the board when looking to hire permanent, in-house staff.

Many companies suffer attracting calibre candidates as they are completely out-priced by short terms contract opportunities.

A further issue regarding the skills shortage is down to the educational system.

Schools, universities and colleges are not teaching the right things and digital and tech are not promoted enough.

Many graduates don’t know they can get into digital.

Throughout life they are educated about set type roles, but the industry is crying out for maths graduates.

There are certainly steps companies can take to set some of these issues right.

To address the freelancer over-population, it is important companies take a stand about pay.

Perhaps in conjunction with a union or the government, salary brackets need to be enforced for contractors.

Once the pay is more reasonable and similar to an in-house rate, less young, recently qualified professionals will be drawn to freelance.

Effective planning is also a hugely important factor.

A lot of digital and tech companies use recruitment agencies in a last minute attempt to find someone, often needing someone to start tomorrow!

But the important thing is to sit down and think about your strategy for the next 12 months and make more informed plans.

Talent can sometimes be found in existing employees!

Nurturing talent from within the company should always be considered before looking elsewhere.

It can be a much easier, quicker process and can act as a good incentive for existing employees, giving them the confidence that a promotion could be just around the corner.

Communication with your recruiter is also essential.

It is best to sit down the recruiter to really give them a flavour of the company, the type of personality and culture that exists, so that they can then convey that to a candidate, not just the job description and salary.

That is really invaluable to a company as anyone can write a job spec but not all can know what it’s really like to be part of a company.

Lastly, a key way to encourage potential employees to choose your company over freelance work is to offer better benefits.

Employees are drawn to freelancing because it’s flexible and varied. They can finish a contract then take three weeks off.

Employers requiring permanent candidates need to be more competitive with their benefits they are offering.

More flexibility needs to be offered and employers need to start listening to their employees and what they want and what would incentivise them.

The skills shortage in the industry is a problem that starts at the roots.

Most graduates in Maths, IT or Computer Science are being bombarded with job offers from a range of industries, so could easily oversee an exciting opportunity to work in telecoms if they aren’t targeted directly.

In order to retain permanent staff in this industry, employers should exclusively offer on-the-job digital training for permanent employees.

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