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Can you tackle the digital skills gap with people with no tech background?

The whole world suffers from a massive digital skills shortage. Companies and educational organizations are scrambling for solutions, including no tech background.

At first sight this is looking a bit strange. Of course you have to use people with no tech background. No one has been born with the knowledge, right? But the main digital skills shortage is about specific skills, products, technologies and methods. Sometimes you simply need someone to sell something or work in the sales department, but if they have no tech background whatsoever, will they be able to do the job? Would they even understand the customers’ specific tech slang?

Most companies and organizations seem to think that it is better to look for people with at least some background in the tech field they will be working in. It is better and cheaper to run a quick training than to take someone with no knowledge at-all and teach, them right? Well, not really.

First, you greatly limit the amount of people who can apply. Given that pretty much all companies are always looking for talaneted, qualified people, your organization will really have to stand out for the potential employees to chose it over the competition. This may require quite a lot of additional investments and you could actually be contributing to the digital skills shortage, since there’s only so much talent to go around.

So what do to? Ben Sharp, who is managing director for Australia and New Zealand of AdRoll, has tackled the same problem in a different approach.

“When AdRoll launched in Australia, we knew we needed to build our team, fast. Since opening the office I have interviewed more than 150 people for positions at AdRoll. We’ve built a 30 strong digital sales and marketing team. Approximately 40% of those people come from non-digital backgrounds. Whether you come from a digital background or not – when you join AdRoll, you are put through a training course for new employees, we call it New Roller Bootcamp. It’s a two week long full-time course where new employees learn”, he writes for AdNews.

Tech companies in Bulgaria also tackle this issue in a similar way. Since the educational system there simply cannot produce enough qualified people, several companies have set up their own training camps. There’s even an unofficial Software University. It calls itself that even if doesn’t have an official university status. There people with little to know digital skills can go through a two-year training to develop skills in several tech fields. Many companies are then hiring them.

The only actual problem is finding out whether the person(s) you will be training actually have interest in the field and “get”tech. Sometimes people are simply not suitable even if they put in effort. Most companies know that so they help the candidates to make sure they are interested and want such a career in the earliest stages of training. This way both, the organization and the candidate, can know as soon as possible whether to continue or not.

So, yes, you can actually tackle even the lack of specific digital skills with people with no tech background. You will have to probably make a bigger initial investment for trainings and deal with candidates that leave, but in the end you could very possibley have a much better team which is both motivated and ready to work in the specific way you need.