Wednesday, 25 September 2013

It pays to get talent early


Technology has radically changed the way we do business. The ability to create that change, however, and then take advantage of it, is dependent on the skills within the business. You only have to look at the Government’s record in IT development to see what happens when those in-house skills are missing. Over the last 20 years the government has largely outsourced everything in IT to external 'experts', with resulting massive overruns in both time and costs. 

In May, the government’s Major Projects Authority reported that of the 191 projects it was currently monitoring, just 32 were given a green all-clear rating, with 49 classed as probably going to be successful”. Fifty-eight were feasible but had significant issues and 31 were deemed unachievable or in doubt. This includes a new IT system for the MoD, new IT systems to manage back office functions in the Justice department, new systems to manage passport applications in the Home Office and a new accounting system and improvements to the website of the Office for National Statistics.

It's time to stand out

One government group has bucked this trend - the Government’s Digital Service (GDS). It’s a small autonomous group run by Executive Director Mike Bracken and it’s turning the 'traditional' way the government works with IT upside-down. GDS is agile, it does the work in-house and it recruits and builds its teams using fresh young talent. But, above all, it’s getting things done under budget and on time. 

One of the key recruits is Jordan Hatch – he joined GDS age 17, leaving college before completing AS levels in politics, economics and business studies. This savvy 19-year-old has helped turn thousands of expensive and under-utilised government websites into one single site, and is on track to save the government £4 million, yes four MILLION pounds. Together, the team are heading for savings of £1.2 billion by 2015. 

The lesson to be learnt from the GDS example is to build up your in-house expertise by grasping young talent;  however, that talent is currently in short supply and hard to find. A recent survey, Impact of the Skills Gap by CompTIA, found that only 15% of the businesses interviewed are “exactly where they want to be” in terms of IT skills, and almost one in two (48%) were concerned about finding IT workers with the right skills. That’s not just programmers; but help desk workers and employees with soft skills such as teamwork, customer service and project management skills.

Most businesses don’t have the deep pockets to compete with the government and businesses such as Google for new IT talent. There is another solution to the skills crisis, however, and that’s via an apprenticeship scheme. With an apprenticeship you get new talent and the chance to pick the skills you need, then those skills can be passed on to your existing staff. What’s more, all the training is paid for by the government. 

To find out more about how young talent can help your business visit Firebrand Apprenticeships.

About the Author:       
Frank is managing director and partner at Firebrand Training. He has over 20 years of experience in business development, account management and IT training.