Candidates retrain to meet demands of changing technology

Recruiters in some sectors are reporting their databases are being boosted by fresh talent, with candidates having retrained for a new career as technology changes the skills that UK plc demands.

The reports are in line with recent research from professional services company PwC that shows UK workers are prepared to take on new skills or completely retrain for a new career.

The research, released late last week, reveals 62% of UK workers surveyed say they are prepared to learn a new skill or retrain to maintain employability, with 56% polled seeing this as their responsibility rather than their employer’s.

The survey findings from PwC’s report – Workforce of the Future: the competing forces shaping 2030 – stand against a backdrop of one-third of respondents harbouring fears over what the future of work holds for them, with one in five believing technology will impede their job prospects and two in five worried automation will put their jobs at risk in future.

Throwing the question over to recruiters as to whether they have seen evidence in the sectors they recruit supporting the report’s findings, recruiters are divided over whether candidates are grasping the nettle when it comes to taking charge of their own skills development to further their careers.

Greg Ashmore, managing director for Ashmore Stark, told Recruiter: “Certainly in our industry (financial technology, or fintech) I've seen a real change in direction of the individual's willingness to learn new skills, especially when it comes to technology. Many candidates that I've met have either trained themselves in disciplines such as coding, or have paid privately to achieve these qualifications. 

“Candidates are understanding the demand and desire for technology in the workplace, and realise that to create longevity in their career they need to be open to learning new skills,” he said.

“Talented people will always be hard to find in a candidate-driven market, but what's changed is the individual's desire to bring something different to the table. Meeting talented people with unique offerings is now the norm – a Java developer with a PRINCE2 qualification, or a project manager with an ACCA [Association of Chartered Certified Accountants qualification]. It keeps it exciting.” 

According to Amanda Fisackerly, a career coach and technology recruiter at her own company Fizz, some workers choose to retrain when they reach a point at which they are sick of the rat race.

She told Recruiter: “There does appear to be an outflow of people in their mid to late 40s and early 50s who, for whatever reason, find themselves unexpectedly looking for work again, and a lot of those are in the technology sector.

“What I am finding with them is it is taking between 12 and 18 months to get re-employed. A lot of those people are choosing to retrain and leave the IT industry, because it is so intense and has a habit of sucking the guts out of people. They get to the stage where they say ‘I can’t do this any more or I choose not to do this any more. My health, my family, my future wellbeing are worth more than this rat race’.”

But Fisackerly added that she has seen a divide among the sexes in terms of an appetite to retrain.

“A lot of the women go into ‘soft therapy’ – such as aromatherapy, reflexology, coaching, counselling – but my concern is really for the men, who tend to sit about getting more isolated and miserable, and not know what to do to retrain.

“Typically, what they tend to do is apply for anything and everything that moves. Then either they get rescued by somebody they knew who they worked with several former lives ago and go back to work in a lower-salaried, lower position further away from home to just get back into work, or they start contracting and then find their way back into doing what they were doing before anyway.

“I find the men are less likely to retrain. The only exception is when they set themselves up as a company as a consultant for hire, but that tends to be sales and marketing, sales management – that side of things.”

Meanwhile, David Taylor, group managing director at First Point Group, said the trend was less evident in the telecommunications sector.

“From our side, we haven’t really seen that – in our tech market, clients tend to look for an expert in that field who has experience, and we haven’t seen many retrain and then get immediately hired,” he said.

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