Technology, Diversity & Inclusion
Wednesday 21st November. Huckletree House, Finsbury Square, London.
Chaired and hosted by June Angelides
Panel members; Doniya Soni, Rioch Edwards-Brown, Ade Awokoya, Sharon Peters and Jack Parsons.
Written by Jack Pearce; Tech Talks Co-Host and Senior Content Writer at Harvey Nash / Mortimer Spinks.
It was one of the crisper days we’ve had recently in London, yet the panel discussion was certainly jam-packed full of hot topics. Addressing talent shortages, demystifying apprenticeships, diversity, attraction, the value of soft and hard skills, as well as some fantastic personal stories, all filled the lunch time event, the panel could’ve talked all day and the audience would’ve remained engrossed. Also, rather miraculously, Brexit wasn’t even mentioned!
Doniya began the proceedings by addressing some areas that need immediate remediation; more needs to be done around developing skills in early adulthood, specifically we need programmes / boot camps to teach digital skills. This led her to state something rather exciting, by 2020 all adults in the UK will be entitled to tech / IT skills training and there’ll be new and improved qualifications for digital skills. Until then, it is important to keep developing STEAM skill sets. No, that’s not a typo friends, the ‘A’ stands for Arts, which is now considered incredibly important when applying for a digital role.
What comes to mind when you think of ASOS? An online, not on the high street, fashion store? If you’re nodding along then you’re like me… wrong. ASOS is a technology company, Doniya explained, who have excelled to the top of the fashion / retail industry because of their tech. And before I digress into something totally off-topic, compare their app to Topshop’s / Uniqlo’s / Urban Outfitter’s etc… ASOS is miles ahead. ASOS didn’t go through digital transformation, they led it at inception. Everyone, from Essex County Council to Barclays, is either embarking on or have reached the end of a digital transformation. But we have a skills shortage, so some companies can’t ‘transform’ at pace… which is exactly how the Future Skills Programme was born.
Rioch Edwards-Brown, friend of my podcast ‘Tech Talks’, then went on to talk about the youth of today. She stated that Gen Y and Z are ‘making their own doors’, I fell in love with this analogy immediately, because she’s so bang on. The younger generations don’t want to wait around for progression, so they won’t. Jack Parsons exclaimed later in the discussion that Y and Z care about “project over pensions” which again I love, even if I do slightly disagree (I don’t really plan on working until I’m 80 is all…). But it’s true, Y and Z are driven by purpose and are less interested in what hiring managers (typically Gen X) may have found attractive 20 years ago, it’s just not the case for today’s fresh-faced workforce. Gen Z, Rioch continued to explain, are cutting across the old school, traditional norms to achieve their aims. They want rapid access, so they’ll set about to receive just that. Listen up, Gen X, Y and Z need to be heard and if they’re not, they’ll leave your business.
Ade Awokoya added some truly relevant points, delivered with his typical hilarity and cheekiness. He talked about his experiences as a coach and exclaimed how he wished the Future Skills Programme was around when he was younger; from someone who works as a coach with a multitude of professionals, this is great praise for the programme. Ade’s insights were wholly relevant because he has ‘career shifted’ into being a business coach, the Future Skills Programme is an inclusive programme and includes those who want to shift careers into tech. Sharon Peters has already seen the benefits of leveraging the levy. At Marks and Spencer, they’ve been encouraging any and all of their staff to enroll on their programme to either career shift or up-skill. She urges her teams to just switch off from work (email, phone etc. all off) and enjoy some new training. Sharon also raised something that I just have not considered before; we were so drenched in talking about Gens Y and Z and the future and so on, but senior people still want training! However, in Sharon’s experience, Gen X are more afraid to ask for training or even to ask for help, there is a vulnerability sometimes and by and large people are very unaware of it. That’s the beauty of the Future Skills Programme, you can be any age to career shift into tech!
Last but not least to speak was Jack Parsons, who added an extra shot of energy to the discussion with his admirably beautiful honesty. Apprenticeships are great, but we need to consider the “pre” – what comes before work, interviews, apprenticeships? Learning soft skills. Not enough children that Jack sees via his own business, Big Youth Group, have the initial confidence to chase their careers. From his own experiences, Jack has seen the ardent desire and ambition in Gen Z but just wants us all to dedicate more time to growing their confidence and ensuring they are ready for the world of employment. Whether that is a technology-based apprenticeship or working on a construction site, we all need to commit to helping those that need it.
The event was then opened up by June to a fantastic Q&A. I think for me, the most pertinent point raised in the final session of the event was that we need to address the education sector and how we’re going to tackle not only the skills shortage, but the shortage of females in the tech industry. Young girls need to be encouraged to get into the world of digital from a young age; believe me, you show a young girl an iPad with games on, then tell her she can create her own games on there and even learn how to build a tablet, she’s going to be interested as much as any young boy would. So, we need to harness this and start all children on a digital path whilst they’re at school. But until the education of tech and digital is more heavily mandated, and until 2020 when we have new qualifications, there is the Future Skills Programme.
Harvey Nash’s Future Skills Programme provides organisations with brilliant software engineers and data specialists, through a unique training programme. Making use of the UK Government’s apprenticeship levy scheme, we bring high potential talent from outside the sector and build their skills through our unique training and development programme, getting them to work with our client’s productively and quickly.
Click here for more information.