Filling key engineering and IT jobs – how to draw on untapped talent

The unemployment rate in the UK is currently exceedingly low. This sounds good. But it makes filling key engineering and IT jobs difficult for many organisations.

It also masks a much less rosy picture. Because unemployment might be low. But rates of people not in work or seeking employment are also very high.

The solution for more and more organisations seeking to fill those vital IT and engineering positions will be to draw on what is known as “untapped talent” in the “hidden workforce”:

What is untapped talent?

Untapped talent is the skills (or potential skills) that reside in the part of the workforce that might ordinarily not apply for an engineering or IT job you are advertising. They might:

-Face challenges that make it difficult to access work or apply for jobs, such as long-term illness

-Be over 60 years of age (remember – the UK retirement age is now 66 years old)

-Come from a career like care or the armed forces

-Be neurodivergent

-Generally be in what is sometimes called the “hidden workforce”

What is the hidden workforce?

The hidden workforce is a term recently coined in research done by the Harvard Business School into the future of work. It highlights a growing category of people who want to work and either possess – or could develop – the skills employers are looking for.

The only problem is, employers don’t find these people because they have:

-Only the availability to work part-time

-Gaps in their employment history or are long-term unemployed

-Family care responsibilities, still poorly understood and acknowledged by the UK system

-Not enough formal qualifications

-A disadvantaged background

Most people in the hidden workforce, if they work at all, will tend to be overlooked by their supervisors, be willing or want to regularly change careers, and experience a general sense of disengagement with their work.

This is likely because the jobs the hidden workforce engages in do not tend to reward any productivity they might exhibit (or individual supervisors or managers overlook that hard work). They also tend to feel undervalued or underutilised, as they don’t have the chance to explore their potential.

How to draw on untapped talent

In competitive jobs markets like engineering and IT recruitment, drawing on untapped talent is likely to present a beneficial strategy for many organisations moving forward.

Here are some of the steps that are likely to be key in order for organisations to do so:

1) Know the value of a diverse team

It’s been shown that untapped talent – people recruited from the hidden workforce – will often exhibit higher productivity, a better work ethic, higher attendance, and even increased innovation than those hired from more traditional talent pools.

Some of this is no doubt down to finally being able to shine, as it were. But you can also imagine that some people with untapped talent – such as those formerly in the armed forces, for example – had previous training that lends itself well to almost any career.

It’s also true that organisations with more diverse teams in terms of gender, race, economic background, and many kinds of life experience always seem to outperform companies with less diverse teams. They simply have access to more ideas and approaches.

2) Go where the talent is (outside of your usual pool)

Being “hidden”, the untapped talent of this workforce is often hard to find. This can mean:

-Reaching out to talent that’s still unformed, such as college or university students.

-Using social media to reach out to people outside of traditional recruitment groups.

-Hiring people over 50, something that very few UK organisations do.

Despite the difficulties, there are big advantages of going outside your regular talent pool to find talent. In fact, the same Harvard Business School study found that businesses that choose to hire people from the hidden workforce were 36% less likely to find themselves missing key skills.

3) Consider how accessible you make the jobs you offer

Picture a woman with childcare responsibilities who also has skills your organisation needs. She might not be able to commit to more than part-time work, but is there no possible way around this for your organisation?

You might also explore how possible it is to go beyond your geographic area by offering fully remote positions wherever possible. This has the added advantage of enabling more people with physical access needs to apply for roles you are advertising.

All in all, filling key engineering or IT jobs is becoming more and more of a challenge for businesses of almost any size. Yet drawing on untapped talent may be a smart way for all kinds of businesses to overcome the problem.

Want to make sure you’ve done all you can to expand the reach of your recruitment?

Let’s talk. Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering and IT recruitment company with access to the best professionals and an extensive talent pool.

Get in touch today to talk through your specific recruitment goals and challenges with no cost or commitment.