How retraining ex-military personnel could solve the UK’s IT skills shortage

The House of Lords Digital Skills Committee recently launched a report that claimed the UK is failing to address its digital skills shortage. By the end of the year, it’s predicted that the IT skills shortage will reach 700,000 people across Europe.

In addition to this, a recent survey from EMC revealed that 35% of IT professionals from around the world believe that their organisation doesn’t have the right level of skills or knowledge to achieve key business priorities.

A further 69% also believe training IT staff to keep pace with the implications of cloud, mobile, social and big data will be a key challenge for their organisation over the next few years.

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Clearly, the industry is crying out for IT talent yet one area that offers organisations the opportunity to plug their skills gap is being largely overlooked. Each year, 24,000 servicemen and women leave the forces, a figure that is expected to increase to at least 30,000 a year over the next few years.

Many of these personnel depart possessing skills that are transferable to the IT profession, including leadership, teamwork, discipline, resilience, operational excellence and many areas of technical expertise. Yet because they may have limited experience working in the civilian world, it can be harder to secure work.

Managing the transition

However, the transition for these service people back to civilian life needs to be managed carefully. The military is full of highly driven and motivated people, but they must be given both guidance and support during their changeover.

One estimate puts the failed cost of transition to civilian life at £100 million a year. IT companies should see this highly capable talent pool as an opportunity to plug their skills gap, investing in this area specifically, ensuring that where possible transition is successful.

Investing in special training programmes and initiatives to help develop the IT skills of ex-service people will not only help businesses find the right employees with the right skills, it will also help tackle the ongoing issue of the IT skills shortage.

EMC recently announced a new programme in partnership with specialist military support services firm X-Forces, to train up to 20 military leavers in enterprise IT. The programme, which targets all arms and ranks in the military, offers military leavers the chance to train for a broad range of roles in IT, equipping them for careers in technology. X-Forces also offers ex-military trainee funding and guidance should they wish to use those skills to start their own business.

Military personnel have a tremendous capacity for acquiring new skills. The nature of a career in the military means that its people are not just put through the initial basic training, but receive continued, increasingly specialised training throughout their career. This equips them to be highly capable of acquiring new skills and knowledge within the fast paced world of technology.

From the military to tech city

There are a number of people already going through the training now, and with X-Forces organisations can also offer ex-military trainees, funding and guidance should they wish to use those skills to start their own business.

EMC’s direct experience of engaging ex-forces personnel has been a successful one too – it has more than a dozen employees from ex-military backgrounds working in the UK, and the head of its public sector team, Ian Heath, is a former Captain of the British Army. He is one proof point amongst many that these individuals have an inherent skill set that can be perfectly adapted to suit leadership roles in the corporate IT world.

EMC is not the only business looking to capitalise on the opportunity skilled ex-service people represent – JP Morgan, Barclays BankDeloitte and Jaguar are just a few other businesses embracing the expertise they have to offer.

>See also: You and whose IT army? Why enterprise IT is making a bee-line for the front line

The opportunities these schemes provide are both exciting and essential. So what do businesses need to do to take advantage of these alternative skill pools?

It comes down to three things: considering ex-forces personnel as an excellent candidate pool and complimentary to the traditional graduate recruitment targets; investing in and developing training and transition programmes; and engaging directly with relevant organisations, such as the Career Transition Partnership or Quest Online, to ensure the 24,000 military leavers a year are aware of the opportunities available to them within the technology sector.

If the technology community seizes this opportunity, it can secure the support of its ex-military personnel to address a serious challenge for our industry – making sure it has the people and skills that it needs to guarantee the continued growth of the sector in the UK.


Sourced from Jennifer Room, EMC

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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