Reskilled workers: how to attract the next wave of tech talent

Although the past year has been one of the most challenging on record for the majority of industries, the demand for tech talent has only increased throughout the pandemic. A recent survey carried out by McKinsey found that 80% of UK businesses actually plan to hire more people in tech roles that facilitate automation and digital transformation, such as AI and robotics, cloud computing and cyber security. On top of this, Accenture announced that cloud computing was the most in-demand technology skill in the past year, with nearly 35,000 roles advertised.

This level of growth – in what is arguably the most trying economic period in a generation – is good news. However, the demand for these agile skills is four times greater than the number of available candidates, presenting businesses with a different kind of challenge. By the time many businesses realise they need to hire, it’s already too late. With five roles per applicant, many will look to graduates to fill their widening skills gap, but the solution may actually take the form of reskilled workers, who are rapidly increasing in number as roles have evolved.

The emerging reskilled workforce

This demand for tech talent has of course presented countless opportunities for newly skilled candidates, but it’s also encouraged employees from a wide variety of industries to reskill into tech. Alongside this, recent years have seen a change of in-demand skills, and some people have been almost forced to reskill if they wish to progress in a career. With an abundance of courses helping individuals to learn software skills and coding, this is great news for businesses who, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, will be facing a skills shortage in digital, cloud, AI, automation and cyber security roles.

These reskilled candidates may not have the traditional backgrounds that businesses are used to seeing on applications, but they will be experienced in the world of work and will have completed up-to-date qualifications in order to prepare. These reskilled workers will have the adaptable soft skills, knowledge of the business world, and passion about building a career for themselves in tech which could work to an employer’s advantage. But still, what can organisations do to get the edge over their competitors and attract the best reskilled tech candidates?

1. Set aside your preconceptions

All businesses are guilty of having narrow preconceptions when it comes to filling their talent pools. It’s only natural that businesses should want the very best candidates, and it’s okay to have specific criteria when it comes to trying to fill a particular role. However, in order to identify and attract the best candidates from a reskilled workforce, businesses will need to broaden their parameters and think outside of the box. They may even need to re-evaluate what a ‘good candidate’ looks like, as reskilled workers will come in many different forms. Some will be young and highly educated, with a natural talent for tech and coding. Others may be older and experienced in other sectors, with plenty of transferable knowledge to bring to the table. There will be reskilled candidates out there who tick every box and more – don’t overlook them because you’re only interested in those with a traditional or preconceived tech background.

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2. Get seen in the right places

The reskilled workforce represents a tapestry of talent from a wide variety of backgrounds. While candidates are going to be motivated and willing to hunt for the right roles, they’ll stand a much better chance of finding you if you take a multi-channel approach to your recruitment drive. Remember, you’re trying to broaden your preconceptions of what your next tech hire might look like, so only posting on graduate job boards or particular social media channels will only limit your progress. Traditional job websites will get you so far, but there are a number of tech-specific job boards that will get you seen too. Make your business seen across a wide variety of platforms and you’ll also be able to attract more passive candidates too. With social media you can reach passive and non-traditional candidates by targeting based on interest or skills, alongside their career history.

3. Know your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

Broadening your search for candidates also means broadening your value proposition. What can you offer tech talent that your competitors can’t? Why should they want to come and work for your business? Establishing a new EVP is crucial, because the reskilled workforce and its requirements will vary far more than that of graduates or newly skilled workers. For example, they could be used to different working environments or favour the office over flexible working. However, if your business is used to hiring graduates, for instance, you’ll likely have an established EVP that’s built around their needs, such as structured training programmes to help bridge the gap between university and the workplace. Failing to evolve this EVP to factor in the needs of a diverse market of reskilled candidates will only hinder your efforts and will limit your opportunity to stand out against competitors that are fighting for the same tech talent.

If businesses can get their approach to attracting reskilled workers right, it will pay dividends as we navigate our way out of the pandemic. Attracting reskilled workers can unlock talents and skills that businesses might not have even considered. Reskilled workers often carry the kind of industry experience that allows them to hit the ground running on projects and will therefore require less training and ‘time to adapt’ to workplace culture.

Employment changes during the pandemic have shown that unemployment or redundancies in one area can serve shortfall in another. It’s likely that we’ll see reskilling as a natural evolution driven by the pandemic and digital transformation in the years to come. This latest wave of reskilled workers could be just what the tech industry needs, but businesses will have to broaden their horizons and diversify their recruitment strategies in order to seize the opportunity.

Written by Neil Purcell, founder and CEO of Talent Works

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