With an ever-growing demand for tech skills in the workplace, Brexit and a shrinking talent pool, SMEs are finding it harder to access talent. So what are the challenges currently facing regional SMEs and what help is available for them?
According to an independent study, 75 percent of UK Chief Information Officers (CIOs) believe that it is more challenging for SMEs to attract tech talent because they are lured to larger technology companies. The answer? Focusing on talent resourcing and creating the environment that would allow for tech staff to thrive. Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM), which is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), is a university-run project, helps you achieve this by matching your business with highly-skilled graduates and students as well as workshops to support your talent retention structures. Below we look at some of the challenges, and how HLSM can connect you with areas of the University that would help solve your business issue.
Access cybersecurity knowledge
Living and working in an increasingly online and connected world is putting a greater emphasis on stronger cybersecurity skills within businesses. The UK is now the most targeted region for cyber threats, according to Malwarebytes, with the rise in hack attempts double that of the U.S. The Office of National Statistics reported that cybercrime specifically targeting businesses grew by 63 percent in 2017. In addition to this the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is likely to reduce co-operation on cybersecurity and make it more difficult to attract international talent in this field.
Regional businesses need to actively consider attracting cybersecurity talent, and make it a key ‘wanted’ talent of your employees. There are many universities now offering cybersecurity courses, and for businesses looking for a local programme, there is the opportunity to collaborate directly with students in Birmingham City University’s cybersecurity Bachelors and Master’s programme.
Through Higher Level Skills Match your business could take on cybersecurity students for internships or suggest business projects as part of their study that could support your business in assessing their cybersecurity know-how and implement it in your business.
“Our students on technical degrees are taught by experienced academics, many with industrial experience in the field…the opportunities they have to partner with organisations .enables them to share that knowledge for the benefit of businesses to help them close their skills gap.” – David Bond – Employability Manager, Birmingham City University
Software and IT support
Alongside a lack of talent, SMEs are not investing in I.T infrastructures to allow their business to move forward. This lack of support is also putting off new talent. Over three quarters (795) of SMEs in a survey of 1,000 saw investing in technological innovation as important, yet one in ten haven’t invested in any new technology at all in the past 12 months. In addition, a quarter of SMEs have spent less than 10 percent of their budgets on new technology.
However, over 18 percent of those SMEs stated they would more likely adopt new technology like AI, Blockchain or automation if they were able to work with other businesses and organisations to increase their chances of success.
BCU’s School of Computing and Digital Technology launched a Student IT Services scheme this summer to support businesses with issues such as software and system development, IT support and network troubleshooting. The scheme would involve six-to-ten weeks of work with organisations to provide them with an opportunity to improve and develop their IT systems.
By collaborating with Higher Level Skills Match, SMEs in the region can access this university support to help solve the lack of infrastructure issues together, even if large scale budgets are not available.
Retaining your talent
With SMEs having challenges in appealing to tech talent, having a strong benefit structure is fundamental to keeping your tech talent in your business. Nearly one in five employees at SMEs leave their job each year due to poor benefit structures. However, 63 percent of small business owners reported they did not know how to find cost-effective solutions for staff.
Seeking external HR advice around developing retention strategies can be a great way for businesses to look at working models and examples for them to implement in their own business. The HLSM project runs a series of workshops to support businesses in managing their talent retention strategies.
Businesses are free to sign up to their next workshop on Friday 5 July.