UK SMEs challenged by declining talent pool

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There’s a gulf that needs to be bridged

Human resource management and marketing software company Fairsail has warned ChannelBiz UK that Britain faces a dangerous rift in talent that many SMEs will have to address if they wish to compete.

Speaking to ChannelBiz, Fairsail CEO Nic Scott said that – despite government plans to reintroduce IT skills in schools across the country – the measures are going to be far behind the vastly competitive talent pools of the BRIC economies. Although a step in the right direction, in terms of time, it will take many years before pupils who benefit will become employable.

“We don’t provide the number of people that companies need who have a sufficient level of training,” Scott said. “Not specifically training for carrying out a job itself, but even to come on board and be trained to do the sort of tasks that a high tech organisation needs these days.”

Companies must remember that they are not just competing with the IT powerhouses in the United States, but also “emerging” economies like India and China. “We need people who are not just able to use a computer to write emails,” he said, “but people who are able to program and adapt to the current technologies that are out there – we find it a struggle to hire people who we can bring in and train.”

Apprentice schemes covers schools, but that stops short of covering university graduates. “Why is that?” Scott asks. Businesses need graduates who have strong programming skills already, who companies can then train up in order to continue competing successfully.

For SMEs, the knock-on effect could translate into an ecosystem where managers are icnreasingly business-minded but unable to fully get to grips with emerging technologies. “It’s going to make it harder for SMEs t ocompete against organisations from other countries who, right now, we have been able to compete against successfully.” The threat from other countries will be seen everywhere along the channel: from the delivery of internal systems, down to who they supply. “Inevitably, we will fall behind as a country unless we can do something about it,” he said.

Fairsail claims to have adapted – it is competing in the States and at home, as well as winning customers globally. But as it expands, as with every other business, it must maintain the intake of talented people. If companies are unable to do this, it will impact them directly.

Even if British companies want to hire ‘at home’, the world market has been set up to provide an exceptional and wide-reaching talent pool from the BRIC countries. Hiring these programmers is not money motivated: the idea that they are cheaper is “a sort of fallacy,” according to Scott, “because at the end of the day, if it’s there and delivering then the rates will follow the market very rapidly – we have already seen that with India over the last ten years, where the rates have tripled on average”.

Businesses that risk feeling the pinch most will be the Davids versus the Goliaths. “In the UK, people looking for jobs tend to start with the bigger companies and then work their way downwards,” Scott said. “People who have the capability are more likely to be attracted by these organisations. There IS a gap forming in terms of the supply versus the demand, and this too will impact the bigger companies in the longer term.”


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