It was apparent two years ago that there was a notable shortage of construction skills that threatened the rollout of a fibre across the UK. Fast forward two years pre/post COVID and the evidence speaks for itself. Over 200 ISP’s plus numerous Build & Design partners that have entered the UK market. The race is now on to try and bring full fibre to every household and business by 2025. The UK government initially laid out a target to reach this unrealistic milestone which Boris Johnson had included in his campaign to become prime minister. This was heavily criticised by industry leaders at the time, and the government said that it will aim for the UK to achieve nationwide coverage as soon as possible.
The challenge in these exciting times is how do these companies ensure that they meet their objectives by successfully delivering gigabit capable speeds within the required timeframes against Capex/Opex. As a supplier of talent into the fibre sector, Nexere has seen first- hand the myriad of challenges being faced when searching for skilled labour to help meet demand. There are several factors that have come together to create a perfect “talent storm”. Significantly we see fewer graduates coming through the system for a variety of reasons. Then uncertainty of the impact of Brexit on the labour market (example EU settlement scheme) and the Covid-19 pandemic have brought about new complications to whip up the storm.
Mainland Europe offers up a fibre talent pool, in some cases some of these individuals are currently working remotely assisting with design activities for some of the ISP’s. They are naturally cautious of agreeing to relocate to the UK pending the outcome of any Brexit deal which may mean they have to return home. The UK does offer some hope with certain parts of the country especially the major cities, holding deeper pools of talent that have historically worked for BT, Virgin and Cityfibre. However in the past few years companies including Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, Zzoomm, Swish, Community fibre, Gnetworks, Toob and Jurassic fibre have been undergoing exponential growth which in turn has also compounded in creating a shortfall of available talent in this sector.
The telecoms industry has historically been one that many people have been referred through their network of family and friends. Or literally fallen into it by chance. Even in times when many countries across Europe face a skills shortage, businesses need to look at new and creative ways to inspire young people into the fibre sector. There appears to be a gap here that the industry can take advantage of by offering apprenticeships and diversifying their talent pools by hiring talent from industries including the utility, transport and public sectors. A report by the centre for economics and research center revealed that by 2025 half a million people could be brought back into the workforce with enhanced connectivity.
With hiring very much at the forefront, and no sign of this slowing down any time soon, Employee Value Proposition is key to the success of the employer brand. It defines their position and strategic direction. A good EVP should contain elements that appeal to a diverse group of employees. The right rewards and benefits offered to the employee in recognition for their performance will certainly help companies attract and retain the top talent.
Over the past decade the way we recruit has significantly changed. Some changes are for the good and others have become a barrier to success. Candidates have been steadily becoming more and more powerful in the job search as their choice expands and their expectations increase. If the EVP is delivered consistently and efficiently it will be a powerful driver of talent, improving recruitment outcomes and gaining an edge over competitors in a crowded market.
So, what is the answer? Unfortunately, there is not one single, quick fix. Employers, particularly in this ever-evolving sector, need to be open-minded in their approach and consider all their options. They cannot rely on doing the same thing over- and -over again, following a dated hiring strategy that is failing to deliver. Look at how often and in which ways other parts of your business are innovating their products, services and processes and follow their lead!