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How to Bridge the Skills Gap in Tech? Aviva Might Have an Answer!

Posted  by Marek Zoellner

Aviva, the market leader in insurance, savings and investment decided to take matters in their own hands when having a hard time headhunting IT pros. The management decided to reskill their current employees giving them a chance to smoothly transition into the tech world. The results?

The skills shortage in IT is not surprising anymore, it’s common knowledge. The big brands are going the extra mile and offering the best perks during job interviews and yet they still find it tough to find qualified coding buffs.

Aviva decided to approach the problem with an unconventional attitude. Why look for tech pros who are like unicorns in the current job market when there is a possibility to reskill the current talent already employed by the company? In partnership with Aviva offered their employees a chance to participate in an online coding bootcamp. Successful graduates were then transitioned to their new roles in Aviva’s IT department. The managers are currently re-evaluating the whole project, happy to share their remarks.

Tech advancements will surely render some of the roles redundant, that’s the beauty of the current digital climate. However, the rapid developments in IT will create a myriad of new opportunities, creating new positions for those that are willing to adapt and change their career paths. At the same time, it’s quite probable that the fancy degrees will lose their value and employers will focus mostly on the candidates’ skill set. Nowadays, coding skills are on the most-wanted list not only in the IT industry but also in other areas such as banking.

Aviva is aware of the ever-growing skills gap in tech where the supply and demand mismatch makes it hard to fill in currently open IT roles. Their response?

- "We knew that our employees were anxious about the changes in the job market and we started wondering what we could do. We then came to the realisation that we could give them a chance to reskill, to break into the most in-demand careers, ie become a programmer"- mentions Monika Kulińska, People Director at Aviva.

The idea of the project was to give every employee a chance to participate in an online coding bootcamp, regardless of their previous work experience or current role. Most of the workers interested in reskilling were from accounting, administration, HR and call centre departments.

All in all, 20 employees decided to take part in a 6-month coding bootcamp with after successfully passing preliminary aptitude tests with one of Kodilla’s mentors.

- "We wanted to make our employees aware that certain professions will cease to exist, however ... new opportunities are constantly emerging. We also wanted to emphasise that everyone can learn something new, retrain and start a career in a more promising role" - adds Monika Kulińska.

One of the participants, Kamil Dróżdż, who’d worked in the call centre department for 4 years, shares his impressions after completing the bootcamp,

- "Once I graduated from the online programming bootcamp, it literally made me feel that the world was my oyster. Today, I have a sound basis to develop even further, in a role closely connected with the Tech industry" - says Kamil.

Java Pros, the Holy Grail

The whole project had as many followers as sceptics at Aviva. Those that were not entirely convinced about such a bold plan were mainly from the IT team. They couldn’t envisage that in 6 months someone who had no prior programming knowledge could easily reskill to become a fully fledged programmer.

-"IT pros are usually apprehensive about those without previous work experience as they might end up not knowing what to do, especially when one of the most desirable yet difficult programming languages was chosen as the main subject during Kodilla online bootcamps - namely Java" - explains Marcin Kosedowski, Marketing Manager at Kodilla.

-"Indeed, our developers reacted warily to the proposed project. It was not easy to convince them, especially since we never attempted to train people not holding a university degree. We would mostly train students in their 2nd or 3rd year of uni. For us it was an experiment" - says Rafał Frątczak, Director of Application Development at Aviva. "Besides, we focused on the highest calibre, i.e. Java, object-oriented language, which is very complex. We were concerned that this program - though it was well-structured - would not meet our expectations and after 6 months we would see that it was not going to work out" - he admits.

Contrary to stated concerns, the project turned out to be a tremendous success. All of the graduates started their new positions in Aviva’s IT department.

- "The vast majority of the graduates adapted quickly and became part of the team. Although they have been working in their new roles only for half a year, they are efficient, task-oriented, and their work brings real value to the company"- emphasises Rafał Frątczak.

Fancy Degree, Not a Must-Have Anymore!

Paweł Jabłoński, the Delivery Manager at Aviva was equally pleasantly surprised. He admitted he had never worked with IT pros that wouldn’t have computer science degrees but in turn gained their skills from an online coding bootcamp.

-"Personally, I don’t see much of a difference between those who graduated from a programming school and those who are just after obtaining an engineering degree" - says Paweł Jabłoński. In his mind, if someone wants to be a programmer they don’t need a fancy degree.- "It requires aptitude and single-minded determination, and to develop these two traits, all we need is a well-designed program, not a particular studying method, as such."

Has Aviva Found an Answer to the Shocking Skills Shortage in Tech?

It’ll be fascinating to see if other companies follow suit and start reskilling their current employees in order to fill in the ever-growing tech roles. Rafał Frątczak, Director of Application Development at Aviva, believes that the number of open positions in tech will keep growing and the industry will suffer from a lack of skilled IT pros for quite some time.

- "In the era of ubiquitous digitalisation of everyday life, programmers, especially those skilled in key technologies such as Java will always be in demand. The possibilities are huge."

Rafał mentions that the skills shortage in IT is constantly growing, which is the reason why Aviva will continue to reskill their own employees.

- "They already know our industry well, why should we teach it to someone from the outside of the company? They will gain the experience over time, thanks to their determination and with our support. At the end of the day, each of us started in a junior role. You’re not born a Senior Specialist but you can become one" - sums up Rafał Frątczak.