Opening up tech jobs has never been more important

Written by Abi Mohamed on 4 December 2020 in Opinion
Opinion

With many people potentially looking for a new career, there are simple, practical ways to make tech more inclusive – and benefit the whole industry, believes Abi Mohamed of Community Growth Ventures 

Credit: Pixabay

Large numbers of people across the UK are looking for new jobs, with the pandemic causing major changes to many people’s careers.

Even for workers who have kept their current roles, many are still reassessing their careers, with more than half of UK employees planning to make a change to their career in the next 12 months. Although the UK’s current employment landscape is unpredictable, tech remains one of the more buoyant sectors for jobs. Indeed, the number of advertised roles in the UK tech sector has risen by 36% in recent months.
 
With so many skilled workers across the UK looking for different careers, and large numbers of tech companies currently hiring, there has never been a more important time to open up routes into tech jobs for people who are currently under-represented; particularly women and diverse ethnic minority groups. Just 17% of tech roles in the UK are currently filled by women, and only 15% of the tech workforce are from diverse minority ethnic backgrounds. 
 
I know from my own experiences that this lack of diversity has existed for too long and needs to change. I loved coding from a young age, and by the time I was out of university I knew I wanted to get into tech – but I looked around the industry and couldn’t see anyone who looked like me. After university, I found it difficult to get an entry-level job even with a masters degree in information system management. 

I loved coding from a young age, and by the time I was out of university I knew I wanted to get into tech – but I looked around the industry and couldn’t see anyone who looked like me. After university, I found it difficult to get an entry-level job even with a masters degree in information system management.

The job market for tech roles was really hard to find online. When I saw an opportunity to apply for, I felt discouraged to complete my application because of the extensive list of requirements, complicated application process and the company's lack of diversity. 

As we recover from the pandemic, there’s an opportunity for us to rebuild a more inclusive tech sector. Now more than ever, as we ‘build back better’ across different parts of society, we must grasp the chance for greater inclusivity and diversity in a major sector. In addition to creating new career opportunities for people from a wide range of backgrounds, the tech sector and the economy as a whole will reap the benefits of a more diverse workforce. 
 
Having people from different backgrounds, genders, races and religions within tech teams means people looking at a problem from every angle. As a result, the solutions that companies come up with will be stronger, more genuinely innovative, and less likely to exclude those from diverse backgrounds. In addition, there are major economic benefits – just a 10% increase in women working in STEM careers could boost the UK economy by £3bn.
 
Removing barriers
There are various measures needed to diversify tech – and it will take a coordinated effort to drive the scale of change needed. 

But one significant step is to improve the accessibility and targeting of information about tech roles, so that many more people understand the opportunities available to them in their area. It sounds obvious – but nowhere near enough people currently have access to clear and relevant information on the jobs available in their local area, and what skills they require. Technology itself can help here – distilling large amounts of complex information into easily digestible formats. 

We need to tackle the barriers that prevent people from engaging with career information and skills training. Again, tech and innovation can be harnessed to help. This could include eLearning platforms which break training courses down into manageable chunks, or assessments which identify people’s strengths and learning or career preferences. Tech can also help to offer behavioural nudges, which guide and motivate people through what can sometimes be lengthy or challenging learning processes, and digital platforms such as mobile apps can present guidance about jobs in creative ways. 
 
The need for innovations that improve people’s understanding of, and access to, relevant career information is why programmes like Nesta’s CareerTech Challenge are so important. Nesta is supporting and scaling more than 30 innovators, who have a range of ideas to help people across England navigate the job market and find rewarding employment – and as part of the judging panel, I’m excited by the promising prospects of the solutions. Working with employers, local authorities and community organisations across the country, these innovators will enable people to make well-informed decisions about their careers – including considering tech roles and understanding how to get into them.
 
There’s no doubt that the job market can seem intimidating for people of all ages, career stages and backgrounds. But by harnessing technology and innovation, we can help to make information and guidance clearer. Everyone should have the same opportunity for a fulfilling career in tech – regardless of their gender, ethnicity or background. If we can scale up and share practical ways to make the tech sector more inclusive, we all stand to benefit.

 

About the author

Abi Mohamed (pictured above) is co-founder of Community Growth Ventures, which invests in supports start-ups run by underrepresented founders. She is also a judge of Nesta’s CareerTech Challenge.

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