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April 07, 2017
Building a talent pipeline
By: Mohini Rao

The digital skills gap is one of those topics that crops up time and again. The reason’s simple: It’s costing us. Businesses stand to lose if we don’t invest in building a talent pipeline with the right skills mix—especially in a world where in 20 years, it’s predicted almost 90 percent of jobs will have a digital element.

This topic is close to our hearts at Accenture. Not only do we need to help clients find the right skills to prosper in the digital economy, but we must also secure our own talent pipeline. I recently caught up with Candida Mottershead, our HR director for UK and Ireland, to hear her thoughts on the skills challenge.

The need for "soft skills"

For Candida, one of the central issues facing businesses is that they need employees with market relevant skills. “This goes beyond technical skills—we’re seeing a dearth of candidates with ‘soft-skills’ such as communication, critical thinking and to teamwork”, Candida said. “As we’re primarily a people-based business, it’s critical we solve this problem. That’s why we’re investing in several core talent programmes.”

At Accenture, we have embedded social mobility, an individual's ability to do well and progress regardless of their background, into our core recruiting practices, not just because it is the “right thing to do,” but because we want to secure the very best talent for our business. As Candida put it: “For some of our talent programmes, we’re open to applications from people from diverse backgrounds. It doesn’t matter what a person’s social background is, or, for entry level positions, which qualifications they have. If we find someone who’s a right fit for our organisation, we’ll hire them—as we are committed to invest in the development of our people to give them the skills they need to be successful in our organisation.”

Apprenticeships

Our landmark Accenture Apprenticeship programme is a case in point. Launched in Newcastle in 2012, the scheme now runs across our London, Warwick and Newbury offices. Candida explained what happens once our apprentices are selected: “First, they’re given an eight week ‘boot camp’ to get up-to-speed on the digital and ‘soft-skills’ they’ll need to get started on to projects.” While on the scheme, the apprentices enjoy the full benefits of an Accenture employee and are supported by a mentor, a career counsellor and a dedicated in-house trainer to ensure they’re getting the most from their time with us. Apprentices leave the programme with a degree in software engineering and a wealth of professional qualifications.

Skills to Succeed

Social inclusion must, of course, extend beyond the graduates, students and school-leavers targeted by the Apprenticeship scheme. “That’s why Accenture is leveraging their flagship Skills to Succeed programme to also find young people not in education, employment or training, as a potential source of talent,” Candida said. “As part of our Movement to Work programme, we host training and work experiences placements in our offices across the UK to encourage those supported to apply for our apprenticeship scheme.

Social mobility can fuel digital industry

A real change in organisational culture is required to enable people from all walks of life to flourish and reach the top. This is not an overnight change but an ongoing journey. The raw talent is there; but businesses will need to play their part. Companies that remove traditional barriers in terms of how they recruit, engage and train young people and ultimately improve their life chances, will be best placed to find the skills they need to thrive in the digital world.

For more information on plugging the skills gap please download our report: Harnessing the Revolution: Creating the Workforce of the Future.

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