The tech industry in Bristol and the South West is booming - but finding the right talent to fill the roles, whilst also retaining the best people can be a real challenge.
Our mission at Women’s Tech Hub is to support the development of a tech industry that is inclusive of all; that reflects the wider society that it exists to serve.
But what does that look like on the ground in 2019? We know that careers change, people want to learn new skills and there’s a wealth of amazing people in the Bristol area who simply didn’t take up tech as an option when they started their career. We’re also a region with a huge variety of universities, colleges and training establishments creating talented tech graduates who we would love to retain in the region.
With all of this in mind, those of us working in the world of tech talent decided that we could join forces to help sort out some of these ‘pipeline’ problems. Women’s Tech Hub, High Tech Bristol, and Desklodge came up with the idea for Tech³Shed - a careers fair with a difference. Why the name? It was to reflect the power of ‘three’ and also an homage to the fact that everything in Bristol is named after some kind of ‘Shed’ - so we thought we may as well test the trend! We work in tech after all!
We all know that recruitment fairs can be intimidating and that the world of tech can be slightly confusing for those on the outside. So we decided that we would put the two together and run workshops to help demystify things, introduce trainers and other options to help people get into tech, and invite our members down to chat to the candidates and show what they have to offer.
At this time of unprecedented tech acceleration, when all our lives, whether or not you work in tech, are affected by developments in this industry, it’s important to give headspace to where we are at and what we are trying to achieve. Here are my three reasons to Reflect:Rethink:Reboot when it comes to achieving a truly diverse and inclusive workforce in the tech industry.
Reflecting on our challenges
Rather than having a single set career path and goals, we realise that many women deal with flux due to career breaks, a lack of continuous career support and many other factors. Whilst we understand this may be true for many, the gender pay gap and commonly known emphasis on women being the main carers, all have parts to play. There’s also still a known issue where women are signposted towards poorer paying sectors and as such do not often realise their potential.
This shows that the current system simply doesn’t work and is having severe knock-on effects, which in turn means that we need to think again. However, the barriers to fixing this are complex and on the other side, there is an increasing skills gap to fill in the tech sector to ensure that the UK remains economically competitive.
Rethinking the system
We believe that incentives are needed to show the industry that there are plenty of ways to solve this and it’s not all about being a part-timer.
We know the industry is adapting quickly, remote and flexible working are now commonplace, but we still need to rebuild the talent pipeline. Incentives such as in-house upskilling, like Deloitte’s software development academy, the government-backed QA, and Women’s Tech Job’s ‘Women in Cyber Academy’, are not nice alternatives, they are industry essentials.
Transferable skills need to be looked at, flexible working options around not only childcare but elderly care need consideration and we also need to start supporting longer working lifetimes and our elder citizens. In a successful trial in the USA, companies have collected children from school and brought them to the office environment. This approach not only cuts down traffic and stress at school pick up times but allows both parents to share responsibility and spend more time with their children. The trial also increased workplace retention so it just shows that there are plenty of opportunities out there for companies to consider away from the standard 9-5 / 10-6 solution.
Rebooting for a fairer future
The number of tech graduates coming through the system and the rate of loss are not sustainable, yet the barriers to retraining and getting leavers into the workplace look like they are set up for failure.
We know that the best way of finding a great job, returning to work after a break, or finding a great team member, is far easier in a relaxed atmosphere and through getting to know them. With that in mind, there are plenty of ways that we can imagine rebooting the system.
Our returners programme, called re:BOOT, assists candidates after an extended period of time outside of their profession for whatever reason and also helps those looking for a career change into the tech industry.
So, how are we going to put some of this into practice at Tech3shed this week?
First, we want to ensure that nobody comes and leaves without some level of engagement. We’ll have plenty of volunteers available to introduce delegates to the companies at the fair and let them know what is available to them.
Second - it will be a safe space – we welcome the more confident techies but also want to ensure that our core members are looked after too. We believe that we have considered everything – including safe/quiet areas for attendees who suffer from anxiety or other stress-related issues and wheelchair access, plus a quiet room for companies to speak in privacy with potential candidates.
Third - we’re all about collaborating and learning from related worlds. We’re really excited to welcome TEDxBristol this year, they’re a great addition to our careers fair due to our shared belief in diversity and inclusion, and also because we have so many members who simply love TEDx!