South African companies ignore junior tech talent at their peril

South African companies ignore junior tech talent at their peril

It may be time for hiring managers to relook the qualifications they require when recruiting technical skill, according to OfferZen.

Businesses that diversify their talent pipeline to include both university and bootcamp graduates stand a better chance of finding software engineers with scarce skills.

It may be time for hiring managers to relook the qualifications they require when recruiting technical skills. This is according to Stephen van der Heijden, VP of Growth at OfferZen, a developer job marketplace helping companies in Africa and Europe accelerate their developer hiring.

He says that for the longest time the local IT industry required formal IT qualifications, such as a four-year university degree, for their entry level technical positions.

“However, we’re seeing that shorter, more focused training interventions such as coding bootcamps are creating new talent pools. In addition to university grads and self-taught developers, bootcamp graduates must be part of your talent strategy if you’re a company competing for tech talent, which is almost every company today. Instead, expand the metrics you’re using to identify quality developers beyond the usual degree or years of coding experience. Find people of all backgrounds and give them a real chance.”

With the continuing shortage of technical skills across the world, even large companies – once the first choice of developers and engineers – are struggling to recruit and retain development skills.

“Our 2022 Software Engineering Hiring Trends in South Africa Report showed that the Great Resignation has not missed South Africa. 32% of developers surveyed had been in their jobs for less than a year and 30% are looking to change jobs in the next year,” said van der Heijden. “This fluidity in the job market is making it more difficult to retain specialised skills and traditional hiring practices aren’t helping the situation.”

He added that while a Computer Science degree remains a critical part of building software developer skills, many hiring managers simply use this degree as a way to filter candidates because they find it difficult to assess technical skills.

Assessing developer certifications

“The problem with using specific degrees to filter out candidates is that companies are missing out on a large pool of talent. For instance, we know that a third of local developers studied fields other than Computer Science and one in four developers are self-taught,” he said.

“In the absence of a global standard for developer certification, it comes down to how hiring managers assess a developer’s resume and skills, which can be difficult when CVs are all different or of a poor quality. This is a significant hurdle which also undermines the impact that coding bootcamps can have on reducing unemployment and increasing skills building in South Africa”.

The ‘right now’ skills

Van der Heijden adds that the bootcamp model also brings advantages because they enable people to quickly upgrade their skills. While university curricula are focused on creating foundational knowledge, bootcamps can provide the skills that are needed now.

“More importantly, bootcamps combine theory with practical application which means graduates are equipped to solve real world problems. The more we can bridge the gap between learning to code and solving problems with code, the better,” he said.

It’s this ability to build a pool of expertise in emerging technologies that is a key reason why hiring managers shouldn’t dismiss bootcamp graduates out of hand. With technological change continuing to accelerate, companies don’t just need access to more skills, they need access to the right skills.

He advises that standardising candidate profiles is the best way for companies to assess candidates from traditional and non-traditional educational backgrounds. This is where a platform that relies on humans to curate each candidate for quality, before standardising their profiles so that they’re easy to review and compare, offers particular value. It reduces the barrier for companies to match candidates to open opportunities and exposes a wider pool of candidates to new jobs.

For companies scrambling to find skilled individuals, bootcamps and non-traditional tech education have the potential to provide a more diverse set of potential employees – talent that is hungry for opportunities – and a way to tap into the latest technology trends.

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