Building and Nurturing Talent – Neueda’s Approach to Futureproofing the Local IT Sector

Digital transformation company Neueda is rolling out a multi-tier strategy to source, build and nurture talent that will help ‘future proof’ Northern Ireland’s IT sector.

The Belfast-headquartered business, which has committed to recruiting 165 new staff within the next two years, is working with schools, the education sector and its own workforce to deliver what it describes as a ‘full circle’ approach to talent development.

Paddy O’Hagan, Chief Operating Officer, Neueda, explains:

“The IT sector in Northern Ireland is struggling to sustain demands for talent from ongoing organic growth and foreign direct investment. It is therefore essential that we futureproof its economic value through broadening and nurturing the talent pool and we believe that means engaging with the current and future generation on a ‘full circle’ basis, from primary school level up.”

Paddy believes there is significant work to be done at primary school level to instil an early interest in and passion for IT:

“It is important to capture the imagination and interest of young people at an early stage when it comes to IT and all that it has to offer. It is second nature for young people to think digitally these days, however the older generation perhaps isn’t embracing and encouraging that enough,” Paddy continues.

Neueda works with a growing number of primary schools in Belfast to deliver its Neueda Code Club programme year on year that introduces basic programming concepts and delivers practical sessions in languages used in Neueda like javascript, python and labview.

“The response to our Code Club from kids is always fantastic and importantly, our staff train the teachers to deliver these skills to pupils directly. Through helping strengthen their teaching programme, we hope to empower teachers to place a greater focus on IT as part of the curriculum,” Paddy said.

Neueda then engages with secondary schools and higher education colleges to lift the lid on what an IT career can offer.

“Our staff visit secondary schools and colleges to share their experiences and provide students with insights into life within an IT company. We regularly take on work placement students from colleges like SERC and apprentices from A level upwards, some of whom go on to become full time employees,” Paddy said.

This approach to building an interest in IT is combined with a ‘wide net’ approach to recruitment:

“Whilst many of our staff have IT qualifications, there is a wealth of potential tech talent in Northern Ireland that exists outside of the traditional areas like computer sciences.

“IT hobbyists, people with a keen interest and aptitude for IT, simply may not have studied the relevant courses, but we are keen to capture their passion and help them learn the essential skills they require to turn their hobby into a profession. For that reason, we place a lot of time in both reskilling and upskilling staff.”

Neueda recently brought 16 individuals onto its first Assured Skills Tech Academy programme, delivered in partnership with the Department for the Economy. Open to graduates from all disciplines, the Tech Academy seeks to inject fresh talent into the company whilst opening the doors to a career in IT for people from a broad range of backgrounds. The participants successfully went through training at Belfast Metropolitan College and have each been successful in securing a full-time role with the company. Neueda is also currently calling for applications from graduates to apply for its Summer 2018 Graduate Academy programme.

Paddy maintains that whilst encouraging people to move into the sector is a huge area of focus, it is also vital that tech companies continue to invest in their people and culture:

“Ongoing training, development and mentoring will help keep talent motivated, up to speed with the fast pace of technological developments and ultimately drive further growth not only for the company but the sector overall.

“For instance, Neueda provides employees with access to an online  portal, Pluralsight, which allows them to access training in their own time, supported by a structured development programme delivered by the company aligned to our career framework.

“Neueda is built around an ethos of integrity, openness and fun – and we try to demonstrate that to existing and potential employees through everything we do."

Paddy O'Hagan

COO

Paddy also chairs a new Sectoral Partnership for the IT industry, supported by Department of Economy, focusing on ensuring apprenticeships are structured and more closely aligned to what the industry needs. This new group had its initial meeting in September and aims to help drive the curriculum with the local education sector and shape apprenticeships as they become an integral part of the IT recruitment ecosystem. 

“Equally, culture is crucial. The traditional view of working in IT might evoke images of working in isolation amongst a silent room full of computers and as anyone employed in the sector will say, that is massively outdated. Neueda is built around an ethos of integrity, openness and fun – and we try to demonstrate that to existing and potential employees through everything we do.”

Neueda believes the entire IT sector needs to work in partnership to secure its future:

“There is a huge buzz in Northern Ireland’s tech sector, with some amazingly talented people doing ground-breaking things. It is the responsibility of the whole sector to keep telling that story and keep pouring life into the talent pool, so it will have a positive economic ripple effect for years to come,” Paddy said.