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Severe IT Labor Shortage Shifts Focus to Actual Skills

While many sectors in Hungary now appear to suffer from a labor shortage, one of the most-sought after professions is still programmers and IT professionals. Demand is becoming so strong that holding a university degree no longer need be a prerequisite. Andrea Magyari, HR Director at NNG Software Development and Commercial LLP, the Hungary-based car infotainment provider best known for its car navigation systems, outlined the latest trends in the field for the Budapest Business Journal.

Andrea Magyari, HR Director at NNG Software Development and Commercial LLP.

According to the PwC’s sixth survey of Hungarian CEOs, the single biggest concern for business leaders in the country is the ever-growing skills shortage. “Overall, this year’s survey shows that Hungarian and global CEOs are planning to increase headcount, while they continue to be challenged by skills shortages and over regulation,” as Nick Kós, PwC Hungary’s country managing partner put it at the launch of the survey. (See It’s Good to Talk. It’s Also Vital from our March 24 issue, and PwC Reveals Hungarian CEOs’ Mindset in Sixth Survey from March 10.) 

The IT sector in Hungary seems to particularly struggle to find the best professionals. With rising demand for programmers and IT professionals, the supply of experts seems unable to keep pace, a tendency that is inevitably changing the prerequisites for becoming a programmer. Nowadays, you do not even need a university degree, provided you do possess the programming skills, are motivated and have the right mindset.

Hired by the Time They Graduate 

Still, tracking down the best employees is difficult. “Finding the most talented people has never been easy, but these days it is hard to recruit even at university level,” Magyari tells the BBJ. “Demand is so high that most of the students have already been hired by the time they graduate. Therefore, companies who are looking to grow need to do their best to attract talent as early as possible. They make a lot of efforts to build their brands as employers, make it visible and create great workplaces.”

Even if professionals are found and recruited, in this highly competitive environment keeping hold of them can be an equally daunting task. Fortunately, there are a number of tools to help you retain such key talents. “Challenging projects are key, and providing them with opportunities to grow and develop themselves is also of crucial importance. Providing constant training and expanding skills is necessary in this industry, and we [employers] need to be able to support that,” Magyari notes. She adds, though, that offering competitive wages as well as a proper compensation package is a must, while, at the same time, an atmosphere should be created where these professionals feel they are appreciated, making it an organization they are proud to be part of.

If all these are provided, a local company can isolate itself from the worst of the brain drain, a sad characteristic of many sectors in the country today. “At NNG we do not experience a high rate of expatriation and we are proud to have some colleagues who have moved back to Hungary because of great opportunities at NNG,” Magyari explains.

Skills Outweigh Degrees

But what about that idea of no longer requiring a university degree? “We see a positive trend of more and more opportunities arising that offer basic practical programming skills, so anyone without a university degree in the field can get started in becoming a programmer. We believe it takes skills and the right mindset to become a great programmer, as learning must be continuous, and these schools and training [schemes] offer great basics for that, ensuring more people can enter the IT field,” Magyari argues.

With the spreading influence of technology in all walks of life and the expectations of professionals that some basic IT knowledge will soon be required in many more positions, actually having such skills could soon become more valuable than holding a university degree in programming. Finance firm Morgan Stanley Hungary has been recruiting programmers lately, for instance, and training them in economics and finance (see our story Finance firm prizes math and science brains over MBAs from the February 16, 2016 issue).

“The need for IT knowledge is growing due to the continuous and fast development of technologies, so nowadays basic IT skills are becoming inevitable, and employees are required to be able to use advanced tools and methods,” Magyar explains. “Programming skills are really useful even for those who are not programmers, and I am sure that in the near future these basic skills will be needed to get along; however, we see them more as an openness towards the use of new technology.”

In order to improve the IT and programming skills of Hungarians, children should be exposed to programming at the earliest age possible, Magyari believes, so it does not only become a basic skill for children, but they can also experience the beauties of the profession. “I think there is still a lot to do to align [the school] curriculum with the actual demands of the market. Killing some stereotypes would also be helpful, as there are still some heavy prejudices against programming, that prevent young students, especially girls, from considering IT as a profession. We think companies also have a role in this, and we are happy to see initiatives like Skool starting to break down these boundaries. NNG cooperates with Skool in order to teach programming skills for young girls and we also cooperate with universities, and organize office visits,” Magyar concludes. 

Skool is an independent Hungarian organization, and under the slogan “Yes She Codes”, it is the main project of the Technology in Education Foundation. “Through our programs, we try to show young girls what technology is about and what career opportunities they could have in the future of this exciting world. Through this, we would like to encourage and inspire them to choose technology when they get to decide between various education and working opportunities,” the website says.