MT Expert - People: Finding technical expertise

People with technical qualifications can be hard to find, but Sam Wormald-Smith says that aptitude - not certificates - should be the priority.

by Sam Wormald-Smith
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
The likes of Shell might have had cause to complain about a shortage of qualified engineers, but part of the problem could be that the manager leading the search doesn’t necessarily have – or understand – the technical skills required for the job on offer. They’re often tempted to play it safe by narrowing the search to someone who has done the job before - which could be the stem of Shell’s problems.

Finding someone who’s passionate about the job and eager to learn can have a far more positive impact for your business than hiring someone with experience. There’s no such thing as a purely technical position in today’s businesses: commercial awareness, communication skills and team work are as important as maths and mechanics.

Hiring someone who can learn, but doesn’t already have, vital skills is undoubtedly a risk - it’ll require plenty of investment in training and development. But by creating the right working environment, employers can sup from a much broader talent pool than they would have had access to otherwise.

Look for potential, not qualifications
Just because someone decided at age 18 not to study maths, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t excel in a technical role. Interest, enthusiasm and aptitude are the key attributes to look for – if they’re in place, the requisite technical qualifications can be easily learned.

Training should be a priority, not a hassle
Training is too often seen as a box-ticking exercise that takes hours out of your day and offers nothing inspiring in return. In technical roles, though, it’s vital. Technology’s changing all the time, and employees need to be up-to-date with the latest developments.

Give people freedom to apply their skills, their own way
People with experience from other sectors bring valuable transferable skills to technical roles.  Project management and budgeting capabilities are highly sought after; customer service skills can be another fundamental but often forgotten asset in technical personnel. Employees should be encouraged to use their experience to bring a different perspective to key tasks.

Every business wants to hire the best employees – but the best employers know that the obvious candidates are not always the most capable. Someone with past experience may get going on day one, but six months later it may be an enthusiastic career-changer who excels.

- Sam Wormald-Smith is director at Roevin Engineering Recruitment. Roevin is currently running a campaign asking ‘Could you be an engineer?’ to encourage non-technical candidates into the profession.

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