Find out which computing and IT roles students and graduates are most interested in, what makes the sector attractive - and what factors are putting them off
Employers in the UK's tech sector have struggled to attract talent for a number of years, and recent research suggests that the issue is only intensifying with 95% of employers surveyed by Hays indicating that they have encountered a skills shortage over the past year while looking for tech talent, up from 89% in the previous year.1
Despite being associated with relatively high earnings, enticing students to enter tech roles remains difficult. To explore this, we surveyed 267 Prospects users to find out what puts people off a career in IT, as well as what attracts those who are interested in a career in the this sector.
One third only considered an IT career after finishing studies
A third of those surveyed were considering a career in the tech sector, with male (44%) respondents being more likely to say this than female (25%) ones, and those with a disability (36%) being slightly more likely to say so than those without one (33%).
|Other (please specify)||7%|
The three most popular areas of IT that respondents were interested in were data science, cyber security and software development. Nearly half suggested that they first considered a career in the tech sector while at school (38%) or college/sixth form (8%). Moreover, while 10% of those interested in a tech career first became interested while at university, a third said they only began to consider a career in IT after finishing their studies. This figure highlights a key issue: students may not have enough information about the opportunities available to them in IT and computing in the earlier stage of their study.
Many young people have a narrow perception of the tech sector and consequently they are unable to recognise how a career in IT might fit within their interests, with many only discovering this during their time at university or after completing their studies all together - an issue that we will return to.
Why makes a career in IT attractive?
We also asked respondents who were interested in a tech career to tell us what enticed them. Through an analysis of 164 open text responses, we were able to identify six themes.
|They were good at it||6%|
|Ability to work from home||4%|
|Previous work experience||2%|
Some 28% of respondents indicated that they were attracted to a career in computing/IT by the simple fact that they enjoy working with computers and technology in general. While some highlighted their love for the technical nature of tech work, others noted how much they enjoy the innovation and creativity involved with working with cutting-edge technology. For instance, one respondent expressed their excitement surrounding the 'fascinating, relevant and upcoming developments in the cyber security and AI spaces'. Respondents also said that they enjoy the problem-solving aspect of working with technology.
Nearly a fifth (18%) of respondents said that they were attracted to a career in computing/IT because it is a growing field that is full of opportunities. Therefore, they saw it as a career that offers a fair amount of stability and opportunities for progression. As one respondent put it, 'it's the future of work'.
What puts people off from a career in tech?
|I would not enjoy it||46%|
|I already have another career in mind||44%|
|I do not know which role would suit me||41%|
|Too much screen time||35%|
|Amount of training required||25%|
|Cost of training||17%|
|Lack of gender diversity||12%|
|Job at risk of automation||11%|
|The starting salary is too low||3%|
More than half of survey participants said that they had no interest in a career within computing or IT. When asked why, more than two fifths noted that they simply wouldn't enjoy it (46%), or that they already have another career in mind (44%).
Moreover, 41% said that they do not know which role would suit them, an issue that also arose when respondents were asked what could encourage them to consider a career in computing/IT, with one in ten (9%) saying that they would consider it if they knew which role would suit them.
'If I…knew more about the different job roles within IT that I will enjoy. I am currently doing a law degree and whether there is anything within a law degree that might be relevant for computing/IT.'
Many young people are completely unaware of the opportunities available to them within the tech sector. Therefore, it is important that organisations reach out to students at a younger age to spread awareness about the opportunities that are available to them and dispel the misconceptions that many people have about working with technology.
For instance, a young person who wants a career in sports may be interested in a job in IT if they were aware of the range opportunities available to data analysts within sports, from working within football clubs (e.g., performance analysis), to working for sports analytics companies.
The cost (17%) and time-consuming nature of training (25%) was also a major barrier dissuading respondents in our survey from pursuing a career in computing/IT, with respondents suggesting that they would consider a job working with tech if these barriers were removed. This is especially the case for respondents who are already in employment with half (49%) indicating this when asked.
How can minds be changed?
|A high salary||22%|
|Having the necessary skills||10%|
|Interest in the area||10%|
|Knowing what would suit me||9%|
|If it related to my career/industry||7%|
|More gender diversity||4%|
|If it benefits society||4%|
|Career progression opportunities||4%|
|Less screen time||4%|
As previously mentioned, we asked respondents who were interested in a tech career to tell us what enticed them. Similarly, we asked those who said that they are not interested what, if anything, would make them consider a career in computing/IT.
While a sizeable proportion (17%) of respondents were adamant that they could not be persuaded, most respondents indicated that they could be. A quarter (26%) suggested that they would consider a career in computing/IT if the training were available. While some were referring to training in general, suggesting that if they were able to gain the necessary skills, they would be more than happy to work in IT, others were specifically referring to on-the-job training, with the cost of training being highlighted once again as respondents noted that they would be interested if they could find affordable courses.
This brings us back to a theme that we found throughout the survey. Respondents who were already in employment were very open to the idea of retraining for a career in computing/IT, with 28% of employed respondents saying this when surveyed. Of those, 12% were between the ages of 18 and 24, 48% between 25 and 34, 24% between 35 and 44, and 16% between 45 and 54, indicating that respondents at all different stages of their career expressed a desire to retrain for career in tech.
Data science, cyber security and software development were the main areas of interest reported by this group of respondents.
Businesses looking for tech talent could consider offering and paying for training for existing and potential employees to gain certifications. This kind of investment can act as a tool for both the attraction of new employees and the retention of existing ones. With the cost of certification being a big hurdle for those considering a career change, offering certification can be a big step towards many companies fulfilling their needs for tech talent.
Respondents also indicated that they would consider a career in computing/IT if the work was flexible, referring to both flexible working hours and the ability to work from home. With flexible working patterns becoming much more prevalent in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise to see workers continuing to seek more flexible working patterns in pursuit of a better work/life balance.
- Tech skills shortage still a problem for employers, Computer Weekly, 2023.
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