Are Firms Struggling to Fill Data Jobs Due to an Outdated Hiring Approach?

The UK, as Europe’s leading technology industry-worth £161bn to the country’s economy in 2016- has, unsurprisingly, a ravenous demand for technology and data professionals. The analysis of data has become increasingly important to multiple industries, including finance: in reducing the risks of banking through the recognition of fraud and other unstable monetary activities.

HSBC’s David Knott has commented that “managing data is a core competency for us” and that HSBC have found “loads of really important and really fascinating business opportunities that rest on the use of data”. The conversion of other industries focus on data has contributed to the increase in demand for data professionals, and studies by CompTIA, the IT Industry Trade Association, reveal that as a result, data job postings have risen by 14% since 2016.

However, there is a problem here. Studies reveal that this demand is not being matched by the supply of data professionals, and whilst technology job postings have risen by 4% since 2016, the number of employees within the technology industry has only risen by 2%. It has been predicted that there will be 756,000 unfilled digital jobs in Europe by 2020, and The UK, the Commission for Employment, records that 43% of STEM vacancies are struggling to be filled.

As the data industry is constantly growing, this shortage needs to be solved quickly, and in the wake of Brexit, there is a fear that this shortage will only get worse for the UK.

So, what is the cause of this lack of data professionals? Statistics indicate that the root of this shortage is education: in 2016 only 15,000 children sat an Information Technology A level, and the number of students who graduated with a computer science qualification in the UK, has dropped by nearly 10,000 from 2002 to 2015.

The UK Government is attempting to resolve this, with frequent coding classes in schools and local centres, and in October 2016, the Government even declared to make basic digital training free for all adults, in attempt to work on the country’s technical skills shortage.

However, it has been made apparent that an extraordinary 26% of data professionals are self-taught and do not have a University degree, and as more than 1 in 4 data scientists have not been educated in computing, it would appear that education has not significantly prevented the supply of data professionals.

This is where the inefficiency of recruiters and firms comes into the equation. Some Firms focus heavily on applicant’s CVs and subsequently overlook those who have not received a University education. Rather than celebrating the determination of those who are self-taught, firms and recruiters are eliminating a quarter of the UK’s data professionals from filling positions.

How do we change this? To supply the increasing demand for data professionals in the UK, this obsession with qualifications needs to change. Firms must change their approach to hiring data professionals, by searching for devoted and ardent applicants, rather than those who appear to be the most polished on paper.

In order to do this, the recruiting process desperately needs to modernise. The recruiting process must become more flexible, utilising applicants with raw talent rather than solely those who have University degrees. By adapting a more personal approach to hiring, recruiters can delve further into the minds of their applicants, enabling them to recognise their specific requirements and skillsets and ultimately to match them with appropriate jobs.

Fortunately, some data scientist recruiting platforms, such as JamieAi, are attempting to provide this flexibility, by adopting a more thorough approach to filtering applicants: ultimately helping to change the way in which data professionals are hired.

Dylan Buckley, co-founder of JamieAi, comments that “people who have the personal drive and commitment to educate themselves in any discipline, not just technology, often possess many incredibly employable characteristics that a university qualification cant teach. As hiring organisations, we need to recognise that our hiring processes are potentially undervaluing what could be the most valuable segment of our talent pool”.

By revising their approach, both recruiters and firms can reduce the disparity between the demand and supply of data professionals, ensuring that data scientists have the opportunity to excel, and securing the UK’s position as Europe’s leading digital industry.