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The Hard Facts on Soft Skills: Yorkshire companies reveal the most in-demand skills for software development and testing

by Anna Turner, our Creative Programmes Coordinator

Fruition IT, a Leeds-based recruitment agency, have recently published their own research into the current demands of companies looking to recruit and grow within development and testing here in Yorkshire. This 2017 Yorkshire Tech Skills Market Report 2.0 paints a vibrant picture of the industry and its trends over a six-month period, with input from a range of companies, including NHS Digital and Ten10.

The results are fascinating and not-to-be-missed if you’re looking to equip young people with the knowledge they’ll need to succeed in this area. Here we've broken down the top learnings for schools and colleges, and future employers, when it comes to the digital and tech sector...


We can closely define which hard development and tech skills are most in demand in Yorkshire

Fruition IT found that, in the first quarter of 2017 alone, there were 2573 jobs advertised across development and testing in Yorkshire. It’s clearly an area with huge potential for growth and expansion – but what skills are needed to truly make the most of these opportunities?

The report acknowledges a blend of both “hard” and “soft” skills as being the hallmark of a desirable candidate. There is a lot of space devoted to those “hard skills” we might traditionally associate with careers in tech and digital: demand for Java engineers remains consistently high, C# is still the most in-demand skill within .NET development, and Android development skills are just slightly edging out iOS to become the most currently in-demand skill within mobile software development.

These data points are fascinating and offer an important insight into the industry today, showing us where we should be prioritising our efforts when it comes to equipping the next generation of developers and testers with the technical knowledge they’ll need to flourish in the current working climate.


Refined soft skills are as key as hard development and coding ones

However, the report consistently makes use of interviews and comments from influential businesses in the area, to draw our attention to the huge demand for more refined soft skills within the testing and development sector. Talking about the needs and demands of contemporary .NET development, Chris Neal, Head of Digital Finance at Answer_Digital, reminds us “soft skills are just as important as technical skills, particularly when it comes to client facing roles.” Meanwhile, “communication and articulation are as important as coding skills” is the message from Joe Moore who works as Recruitment Lead at Mood.


Agile working is important, but what does that really mean?

Another point worth noting from this report is the omni-presence of “Agile” as a skill that is currently in-demand across the board. Many companies are now adopting an “Agile” approach to working, a new philosophy which differs slightly from what might have been called “flexible working” in the past. Agile working puts the emphasis on open communication between employees, rather than having silo departments who work discreetly. It puts a focus on “big picture thinking” and a “cradle to grave” attitude to production. Agile workers are able to constantly adapt to new information and changes to their current projects, they are constantly creating new and improved iterations of their work and are responsive to feedback and criticism.

While “Agile working” can sometimes be packaged as a specific set of working practices and therefore classed as a “hard skill”, this doesn’t give an accurate picture of what it means to “work Agile”. Cassy Calvert, Head of Testing at BJSS, tells Fruition IT that anyone considering a career in this area would do well to “remember that Agile is a philosophy and not a rigid framework!” Cassy’s advice is emblematic of the shift towards emphasising soft skills within the wider community of tech and digital companies who have adopted an Agile approach to working.


A blend of hard and soft skills make the difference between a good employee and a great one

In this 2017 Fruition IT report it seems that hard skills win the day, which is expected when we’re talking about the demands of software testing and development – a sector driven by technical innovation. However, soft skills are still crucial and can be the difference between a good candidate and great one. The rise of Agile working, an incredibly in-demand skill shown in this report, demonstrates that more and more employers are investing significantly in the practice of allowing hard skills to work in tandem with soft skills like communication and flexibility.


Is your school, college or business struggling to find a way to really engage young people in the world of work and key employability skills? Take a look at our Make the Grade case studies to find out how we're helping turn the tide on careers and enterprise education. 

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