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Tech Channel Ambassadors out to reduce stress and strife

Billy MacInnes reflects on the TCA group’s recent launch and its ambition to help promote the channel as a positive career destination

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: MicroScope: MicroScope: The challenge of our time

I admit to being very interested in the recent story concerning the launch of the Tech Channel Ambassadors (TCA). My initial thought was one of bemusement because although I can accept competition can be fierce in the IT industry, I never suspected it had reached the point where diplomats would be required to sooth any potential hostilities.

Thankfully, the TCA are engaged in more peaceful matters, although you could argue that their efforts, if successful, will do much to reduce a lot of strife and stress in the IT channel. The aim of the TCA is to raise awareness of career opportunities across the IT channel for people in education, returning to employment or looking to change career.

The TCA is also keen to emphasise the career opportunities for girls, BAME, disabled, neurodiverse and disadvantaged groups. “Through our extensive network, we strive to provide students and applicants with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to develop a career in the dynamic world of the technology channel,” it states, in cooperation with thousands of employers from across the sector.

The TCA’s plan is to recruit “advocates” from channel companies to present their career experiences and the opportunities available, “thus increasing the awareness and demand for roles”. There are even plans to interact with schools’ career advisers.

Ian Kilpatrick, former executive vice-president of Nuvias, is part of the TCA leadership team. He told MicroScope: “Everyone is struggling to get more staff. What we need is a channel-wide strategy that goes down to schools and up to government and NGO [non-governmental organisation] levels. We have to make the message heard that our industry is an area where you can do great things.”

It’s an interesting point that illustrates the maturity of the IT channel reaching the stage where people can go into a school to talk about careers in this industry. This shows remarkable confidence because I can’t imagine many school children know what the channel is – come to think of it, how many of their parents do?

Sending people out to evangelise about working in the channel is a commendable step. Not only will it help to promote the channel, it will also help to normalise it to a new generation of future employees.

By widening the scope for potential employees, the IT channel is also moving away from the potentially elitist position of an industry restricted by its reliance on people being “good at maths/science/computers”. Ironically, the reason why so many of us think like that is probably because the IT industry and governments have tended to emphasise the importance of science and maths for jobs in the technology sector.

If part of the reason for a staffing shortfall in the channel is one of perception, another is the fierce competition for “suitably skilled” candidates. Companies can be reluctant to recruit and train people because of the risk that they may be lured away by another company that hasn’t gone through the time and expense of finding staff, preferring to step in at the end of the process and poach someone by offering more money. In such a volatile environment, the rewards for training staff may be outweighed by the benefits of poaching them.

But if the TCA helps the industry to recognise that it can recruit employees from a wider pool, so long as companies are prepared to put in the time and effort, it can start to ease staffing shortages. It will also help to “demystify” the channel and the IT industry. While it can be argued the IT industry has done very well out of mystifying its activities (or, at the very least, befuddling people about them), it’s not an ideal approach for the long term.

The existence of the Tech Channel Ambassadors is proof that many in the channel appreciate they need to work harder to engage with the rest of the world. After all, ambassadors are traditionally representatives from one government assigned to a foreign country. The difference between the IT channel and the general workforce is not quite so stark, but these “envoys” can certainly help to change perceptions among the employees of tomorrow.

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