“Language Matters” Digital Employability Research Launch & Workshop

Published by Bryan Rossi-Anderson on

On Monday 11th of June, the soon-to-be-decommissioned Tech Partnership hosted the launch of their “Language Matters” research document. The findings have been a long time coming and are the results of quantitative analysis of over 100,000 job adverts for digital specialists and nearly 3,000 titles of IT-related degrees, along with detailed input from over 100 senior professionals across education and industry, this marks a milestone in their work to date.

As a follow-up to the work undertaken in the Shadbolt Review of computer sciences degree accreditation and graduate employability, the Tech Partnership was commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to investigate how language is used by education institutions and employers when recruiting students and degree apprentices into IT-related education and employment. They launched the “Language Matters” research findings through a series of workshops involving peers across the industry and higher education who wanted to tackle the issue. I attended their workshop to hear summary of their findings and engage in plenary with other peers, exploring different approaches to improving the flow of talent to the digital industries.

The launch consisted of talks from the Tech Partnership, educators (Queen Mary, UEL and Metropolitan Universities) and businesses, large and small alike (Accenture and Quicksilva) along with representatives from the DCMS. The Tech Partnership are now disseminating their “Language Matters” publication, encouraging institutions to use it, and identifying ongoing action to help students transition from education to employment and better match student skills with employer requirements.

Of the group discussions, there was a focus on whether tech (AI) could help remove unconscious biases in relation to applicants’ interpretation of job posts.

Some immediate takeaways were reminders that we, as part of the industry, can begin to make changes to our profiling of candidates by doing the following:

  • Use emotive language; short and to-the-point
  • No acronyms and tech abbreviations
  • Interpersonal skills are paramount; you can train skills, not character

Replacing words like ‘managing’ with ‘developing’, ‘engagement’ and ‘support’, not only get you a better candidate, but more women apply for roles where they see their problem solving skills as paramount. And indeed, all businesses say that problem solving; creative thinkers, are far more in demand than purely technical, digital expertise. However, there was a point of note that arose through discussion that is to focus on inclusivity rather than diversity. It comes more naturally to businesses and feels less like a tick-box response to a problem.

Bryan Rossi-Anderson outside Bishopsgate in East London, where the launch took place

Words matter and the way we use them in job adverts can dictate whether or not the right people bother to apply. Although the overarching focus was about improving student employability within digital careers, the Tech Partnership realised that this is a big problem if you’re a business trying to recruit more women, ethnic minorities and students into your workforce. It cited that we were tackling a new problem with “old money” and it was recognised that changes from both educational institutions and industry need to happen in tandem and in support of each other. Change is happening, at an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary pace.

One Digital is a UK wide partnership which promotes the use of Digital Champions to support people to learn digital skills. For organisations interested in setting up their own digital inclusion project we have developed a free Knowledge Hub of useful information and resources.