On Wednesday 9th October, WhiteHat and Hired co-hosted a breakfast event to discuss the current tech landscape, and how to effectively hire and train diverse junior talent, bootcamp graduates and apprentices. The room was filled with over 30 professionals from organisations ranging from Secret Escapes to The Trainline, all seeking tactical tips on sourcing and hiring, onboarding and retaining diverse talent.

The morning started with Sophie Adelman, Co-founder of WhiteHat, and Gordon Smith, VP of Europe at Hired, discussing the flaws of the current education system in the UK and how it was essential for young individuals to have access to a prestigious pathway alongside university so that they could choose the path that was right for them. Something Gordon touched on more personally when discussing how he had chosen not to go to university.

Both were passionate that organisations need to create a more diverse workforce as the benefits are two-fold. Not only can organisations boost team performance and improve staff retention, but they can develop a workforce that represents their customer base, in order to understand them better. Whilst a number of companies shy away from hiring young talent, citing resource and time as the reason, those that have realised the benefits are experiencing increased employee retention and a boost in team performance.

Sophie and Gordon concluded, companies need to take control of their own future. Talent acquisition professionals and recruiters need to push back on hiring mid-level talent and convince their organisations of the value that comes with creating their own pipeline of junior talent. Indeed, by empowering a diverse group of future leaders now, they will in turn provide a solution to the lack of diverse talent in the future.

Our panel, chaired by Libby Derbyshire, featured Christine Ng, Talent Acquisition Partner - Product & Technology and Kate Beard, Junior Engineer (Full-stack), both from the Financial Times, Conrad Langworthy, Head of Software Engineering Academy at Sky and Alexandar Gyurov, Software Engineering Apprentice at WhiteHat.

Here are their key takeaways:

1. There is a stigma around apprenticeships, that the individuals on apprenticeships do not have the skills or experience, and are a drain on existing employees. This is not the case; apprentices bring lots of value and they are hungry to learn, motivated to show their potential.

2. Not all software engineering employees need a computer science degree and by restricting applicants to this criteria, you increase time to hire, in turn keeping roles unfilled. It’s important to get internal buy-in from line managers and stakeholders.

3. Take ownership of your junior tech talent sourcing by testing different initiatives, for example school outreach and partnerships with organisations like Prince’s Trust, to talk about the career opportunities on offer and to raise awareness.

4. Organisations need to earn the right to have a diverse workforce by creating an inclusive workplace.

5. Ensuring you are ready for your new hire, for example having contracts signed and a laptop ready, is an important part of the onboarding, as well as ensuring your entry-level talent understands the crucial basics, for example how to set up a meeting.  

6. Having a clear progression model for junior tech talent enables individuals to know exactly what is expected of them and understand what they need to focus on to progress in their career. One example given was to have an engineering progression framework with very clear areas for growth, helping them develop in a more well-rounded way.

7. Pairing your junior talent with a more senior software engineer, or mentor, in the team gives them the opportunity to directly learn from them, and an additional layer of support for any questions they have when they first join.

8. And finally, treat them like you would anyone else in the team! By removing hierarchy and empowering your entry-level talent to do similar jobs that your senior level team does, their skills are accelerated and the value to you increases.