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Digital skills gap: A new perspective on job recruitment

Has your need for technical expertise outgrown traditional methods of job recruitment? It’s time to get creative. Here are 5 strategies you may not have considered.

Conventional recruiting strategies aren’t keeping up with the demand for technical expertise. That has led both companies and job hunters to fill the gaps in creative ways. Among the approaches businesses are taking to find and develop talent are hiring and training entry-level candidates, offering training to internal teams, and partnering with external organizations.

But companies searching for qualified talent don't have to go it alone, and would-be tech employees can get help from organizations whose goals are to enable education. Here are five ways IT departments can fill both entry-level and more senior jobs—and give people the opportunity to make the most of their potential. Organizations in each category provide both job searchers and hiring organizations with resources for education, updating skills, and job placement as well as for matching candidates with the right company. 

Some of the ideas below may sound familiar, but they are worth investigating if you are struggling to fill an open job req.

Tap an underserved community

When it seems like everyone is fully employed, you need to look in places that are less obvious and potentially unfamiliar. Art Langer founded the nonprofit Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS) to develop skills of untapped talent from underserved and veteran communities. “WOS collaborates with organizations to offer free workshops and classes for individuals from underserved populations," says Langer. "Our workshops teach them the skills they need to further their educations and launch their careers, covering everything from business writing to navigating career changes.”

WOS is one example of organizations working to give students who may not be on a path to higher education and others who simply don’t have good options to better their career options. WOS works directly with high schools and colleges, where it hosts information sessions and explains to students how its programs can help those unable to afford higher education. By working with specific employers, WOS can train individuals to fill specific roles within those companies.

Langer doesn’t wait for people to come to WOS looking for staff. The following are among the activities and venues WOS uses to meet people:

  • Meetup events
  • Hosting information sessions throughout career and technical education at high schools
  • Engaging with professors and chairs of IT departments at local universities, including computer science clubs
  • Attending graduation events and student showcase days for technology training academies and boot camps
  • College job boards

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Create an apprenticeship

Sometimes the old ways of training remain viable. LaunchCode trains individuals for free and places them into apprenticeships. Founder Jim McKelvey believes companies can grow their own sustainable talent pipeline by diversifying where they find that talent: “Companies must rethink their hiring practices and value skills over credentials in order to minimize the tech talent gap currently affecting America, especially as we move towards a more automated future of work.”

LaunchCode understands the gap between organizations' need for skilled staff and untrained individuals’ desire to contribute and create better lives for themselves and their families. McKelvey explains, “Ninety-nine percent of our students don't have an IT or computer science degree, and 54 percent of our apprentices were previously unemployed.”

The organization has partnerships with more than 500 companies, ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. LaunchCode also partners directly with companies to help them re-skill and up-skill their existing employees, an approach that keeps valued staff at the company and provides upward career paths.

Hire a veteran

Military veterans are accustomed to rigorous training schedules and delivering results. However, while some military occupational specialties can translate into lucrative careers in the private sector, the jobs military personnel trained for and performed while in the service can be very different from the ones available in the corporate world.

Salute works to qualify veterans for employment in data centers. According to co-founder Lee Kirby, the company wants to provide veterans who have no data center experience with on-the-job training and, within two years, help them become valued members of the data center community.

Salute's program trains veterans to become subject matter experts in battery maintenance, an on-going process within most facilities. “The progressive skills required to move from cleaning to installation to maintenance allows our veterans to gain experience in multiple areas that, combined with their formal education, makes them attractive applicants for entry-level positions in data center operations and technical services roles.”

The military experience combined with training and job-specific experience puts veterans in positions like data center technicians because they come in with knowledge of the environment and an appreciation for procedural tasks, ready to be productive.

Partner with a trade school

Not everyone can afford a four-year degree and then perhaps qualifying for an industry certification. Instead, many individuals turn to trade schools, which offer IT training that’s more current than that found at traditional colleges and universities.

That has worked for Triton Computer. “We have partnered with two local schools. As soon as the technicians graduate, we find the cream of the crop, and when they test out, we offer them a job,” says Trave Harmon, Triton's CEO. “It is very effective; so far, we have a 100 percent success rate.” Harmon points to the advantages, including open conversations directly with students who are eager to share their grades and projects, which provides current insights into their skill sets. Harmon hired a student six months before she graduated, initially working as an intern. Says Harmon, “She is one of our best technicians and has the numbers to prove it.”

Training outreach

Finding candidates that can transition from familiar to expert level can make the difference in hiring someone who can become a productive member of IT quickly—and there are plenty of would-be software development professionals who lack the financial resources and time needed to advance their careers. 42 is on a mission to deliver quality education without regard to socio-economic factors. Rather than placing students into jobs, 42 teaches them to navigate and succeed at the recruitment process. Its team of student ambassadors volunteer at large tech events and conferences like to establish preliminary connections with employers.

The organization takes a holistic approach to developing skills beyond coding. “Students come to us from all over,” says Kwame Yamgnane, managing director of 42, which works with nonprofits, local and state governments, K-12 schools, coding-focused organizations, and colleges and universities. “We want to make coding education and 21st century skills accessible in today's digital world. Right now, we have more demand for our students than we have students.”

Yamgnane adds, “The success rate has been impressive, with 99 percent of students that have achieved a rating of level 10-plus (out of 21) and looking for placements getting jobs or internships.”

As the job market continues to tighten, IT staff will become even more difficult to find. Enterprising IT departments may need to reconsider their standard hiring practices and explore options that expand the potential candidate pool. That means the hiring company will need to focus on training the new staff. “You will find some absolutely amazing people, but you will not find a flawless experienced individual fresh out of school," says Harmon. "You need to teach, impart knowledge, and adjust them to your culture.” 

IT organizations need to grow their own and give people the opportunity to make the most of their potential.

Approaches to the digital skills gap: Lessons for leaders

  • Going beyond the HR checklist may be critical to filling entry-level roles.
  • Enhancing internal career opportunities can limit staff turnover.
  • While networking remains important, it may be necessary to dig deeper.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.