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​EXCLUSIVE: Readifying the next generation of tech talent

​EXCLUSIVE: Readifying the next generation of tech talent

Despite the limitless opportunities flowing through technology, Australian businesses remain bound by a worsening skills shortage.

Graeme Strange - Managing Director, Readify

Graeme Strange - Managing Director, Readify

Specific to Readify – a Microsoft Worldwide Country Partner of the Year in 2013 – Strange seeks “problem-solvers” in his business, those who can find solutions through code.

“At Readify, we write software and a key area of our business is bespoke development and data analytics, so maths becomes a key component in finding insights from data and making decisions based on available information,” he said.

Through believing that core STEM skills offers a world of opportunity, Strange recently launched a two-year graduate program, designed to bridge the gap between tertiary education and the workforce.

The aim? “To capture and foster talent.”

“Collectively the industry needs to step up to overhaul the way we train our talent post- graduation, in the same way other professions such as legal and accounting tackle this issue,” he said.

“A bachelor’s degree can only partly equip you for the workplace and it becomes even more acute in the tech sphere as skills rapidly become obsolete. Universities struggle to keep up, and it’s incredibly challenging to continually update a curriculum to remain relevant.”

Through a partnership with Monash University in Melbourne, Readify recruits up to six university leavers every year through its program, which comprises of graduates and junior developers.

As part of the program, Strange said junior developers start work in the managed services arm of the business for three months, accompanied with a mentor before moving into assisting consultants on client sites.

Since striking up the partnership with Monash University six years ago, Strange has continued to build on the relationship, providing new graduates to a team that houses some of the country’s top tech talent, including six Microsoft MVPs.

“The program provides an environment for internships and gives graduates work-ready skills by working on specific projects in teams,” he added. “We have created an environment that better nurtures their skills.”

With a graduate application process that is “mature” by nature, every applicant must achieve a pass mark of 70 per cent for an online coding puzzle – entitled Knock Knock – as the first hurdle to clear before applying to work at the company.

“We’ve been doing this process for ten years,” he added. “If you are a true problem solver, then you think in a certain way. If you think in that particular way, then you are the right person for our organisation.”

Collaboration

Prior to Readify, Strange worked in both large and medium sized corporations, in roles such as COO, CTO and CIO, completing six years of independent technology consulting, while aiding the growth of successful Australia start-ups.

But with an overwhelming desire to accelerate business with new technology, Strange accepts that to lessen the STEM skills shortage, a “multi-faceted collaboration” must be sought between the public and private sectors, as well as industry bodies and education institutions.

“It’s all cause and effect,” he said. “If a business sets out to focus on kindergarten kids learning to code, it won’t immediately solve the problem, but does that mean it shouldn’t make it a priority?

“Businesses need to do things for the benefit of the industry and have a long-term focus on these things.”

In assessing the current landscape, Strange said that the industry as a whole can benefit through better communicating the value of having STEM skills in business.

At present, Readify teams up with CoderDojo, a global volunteer-led, community based programming club, highlighting a leading example of private sector collaboration.

“We have our people working closely with CoderDojo, a club that teaches 8-12 year-old children how to code,” he said. “Our staff spend time teaching so we can fill the gap for the skills teaching that doesn't exist in the current curriculum.”

The software company’s involvement with educational institutions also doesn’t stop short at the graduate program partnership, Strange added, with Murdoch University in Western Australia also making efforts to cooperate with Readify’s ground-breaking STEM strategy.

“The university reached out to us to help them with an ‘Innovation Council’ that is focused on how together, we can do a better job of producing highly innovative people,” he explained.

“These types of initiatives show that collaboration is going on in different pockets, but it could always be better.”

Despite acknowledging that collaboration between universities and business “could still be better”, Strange is helping cement steps towards a prosperous STEM future for Australia.

Having come through the industrial age, the onus now lies on the industry to future-proof the next generation of tech talent in Australia, readying a nation for a new chapter of unrelenting change.

This article was originally published in the July issue of ARN magazine.


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