The skills shortage has been an issue in the IT industry for as long as there’s been an IT industry.
Getting the right people with the right skills, at the right price, has been a long-running headache for CIOs and CEOs. Along with costs this has led much of the push to offshore IT jobs, as well as creating pressure for the various intra-company transfer visas which help UK and US companies get the staff they need.
But in the last year there have been some big changes in recruitment as companies look for more imaginative ways to widen the talent pool.
The big four consultancies, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC, all now recruit non-graduates where previously they had strict academic criteria for degrees and other qualifications.
Instead all four have adopted a set of skills tests, most of them carried out online, to find people who might have the skills, if not the qualifications, to be consultants and accountants.
E &Y for instance used to require candidates to have at least a 2.2 degree and a minimum of three ‘B’ grades at A level. But now you can apply for a job at E&Y without a degree or A levels.
Partly this reflects the digital disruption seen in their industry – a lot of the mundane tasks of data entry and auditing are now done by computer – so the need for top drawer economics and maths has been reduced.
But there has also been major disruption in the whole recruitment process. Online applications can easily include a maths test and other assessments instead of relying on exam results.
These HR systems can also track the progress of candidates once they have joined the company and intelligently feedback on how selection procedures are working. Research, at E&Y and elsewhere, has shown staff without degrees perform as well or better as those with degrees.
Such systems can also remove any hint of unconscious bias which might have been favouring certain types of candidate.
As the consultancies move away from number crunching towards wider and more technical business advice so they have seen the need to recruit a different sort of person.
There is both a lesson and threat here for those looking to recruit IT professionals.
Firstly the consultancies are increasingly looking for people with technical skills to help advise their clients.
But secondly companies could do well to look for people with the right skills, if not the right qualifications, to deal with digital disruption and accelerating business change.