Alternative Pathways to Tech Talent

Northcoders students

In a world where innovation is the lifeblood of tech companies, building a successful tech team is about more than just recruiting talent with Russell Group university degrees. While formal education has its merits, it’s essential to recognise that diversity in tech is a catalyst for innovation, problem-solving, and progress. For this reason, it’s a smart business move to consider alternative pathways to tech talent in order to transform your teams through innovation and diversity of thought.

This is supported by recent findings in the Breaking Barriers report which sheds light on the significant hurdles faced by women when attempting to enter the tech industry with a recurring theme being a lack of access and awareness. In response to these challenges, businesses and women themselves advocated for a shift in perspective, encouraging companies to explore non-traditional avenues to tech talent.

This goes beyond gender as diversity encompasses a wide range of dimensions such as race, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, and neurodiversity, all of which are essential for fostering a truly inclusive and innovative technological ecosystem. So, here’s four ways you could attract a truly representative tech team.

1. Apprenticeships: Nurturing Fresh Talent

Apprenticeships offer an excellent alternative to traditional university education for tech talent acquisition. These programmes enable businesses to invest in young, enthusiastic individuals, offering them on-the-job training and mentoring. Apprenticeships are a win-win, providing businesses with fresh, mouldable talent and helping individuals kickstart their tech careers without the burden of student debt.

Google Apprenticeship programme

Google’s apprenticeship programme is a notable example. This tech giant has been offering apprenticeships in the United Kingdom, providing young individuals with opportunities to learn and work in the tech industry. It showcases a commitment to diversity and inclusion, making tech more accessible to a broader talent pool.

2. Hackathons and Coding Bootcamps: Discover hidden gems

Hackathons and coding bootcamps are high-intensity, immersive learning experiences that attract diverse talent from various backgrounds. These events and programmes focus on practical skills, allowing participants to showcase their abilities in a short period. Many participants are self-taught or come from unconventional backgrounds, making them excellent candidates for tech roles.

Airbnb’s Host Hackathon

Airbnb’s Host Hackathon is a prime example of how hackathons can uncover exceptional talent. Airbnb actively promotes diversity and inclusion in its hiring process. The hackathon serves as a platform for individuals from different backgrounds to showcase their skills and innovative ideas. Successful participants often find their way into tech roles within the company.

Northcoders Bootcamps

Funded by the Department for Education, our own software, cloud and data engineering bootcamps have seen huge success in providing accessible opportunities for people from all walks of life to get into tech. The bootcamps last for 13 weeks and focus on teaching students how to code, equipping them with the right tools and background to develop and thrive. At the end of the bootcamp, our placement team works with graduates to get them into job roles that they love, with organisations that understand the value of diverse tech talent.  

3. Returner programmes: Unleashing Experience and Expertise

Returner programmes are an innovative approach to bridging the talent gap in the tech industry while promoting diversity. These programmes target individuals who have taken a career break, often to raise a family or for other personal reasons, and are looking to re-enter the workforce. They provide a structured and supportive environment for returners to update their skills and regain confidence.

Entain and McLaren’s Returnship

Entain recently partnered with McLaren to launch a 6-month Returnship programme specifically for women. This initiative aims to support individuals, who have taken career breaks and are looking to re-enter the workforce. The programme offers participants the opportunity to gain valuable experience and training in areas like coding and data analysis within the fast-paced world of Formula 1 and Entain. It serves as a stepping stone for career re-entry, as the businesses support participants to rebuild their professional confidence and skills, with the possibility of a permanent role at the end of their journey! 

Tech Returners

Tech Returners is a leading example of this kind of initiative. Through partnering with forward-thinking businesses such as The Guardian and that truly understand the value of diverse talent, the Tech Returners team attract talented software engineers who have taken a career break, to take part in a free programme, sponsored by a corporate partner.

The programme refreshes technical skills and rebuilds confidence and supports returners into interviews with the sponsor company with a view to securing a permanent job. has witnessed the immense value that experienced returners bring to their organisation, contributing their wealth of prior experience to innovation and problem-solving. Not to mention, 80% of their returner cohort were women, greatly contributing to an increase in gender diversity in

4. University Collaborations: Diversifying Graduates

Collaborating with universities on industry-specific programmes can help businesses diversify their tech talent pool. Universities often offer programmes that are more flexible and tailored to the industry’s needs. Such partnerships can expose students to real-world challenges and create a pipeline of diverse, job-ready graduates.

Infosys Academic Entente programme

Infosys, a global tech consulting company, has collaborated with numerous universities worldwide through its Academic Entente programme. This partnership allows students to gain industry-relevant skills, bridging the gap between academia and the professional world. Infosys benefits from a diverse and talented pool of graduates, while students get hands-on experience in tech roles.

Building a diverse and innovative tech team requires looking beyond traditional hiring methods. Businesses solely focusing on University Graduates will struggle to open up their opportunities to diverse talent. By embracing alternative pathways, businesses not only diversify their workforce but also tap into a vast pool of untapped talent, fostering creativity, and innovation in their tech teams. In today’s ever-evolving tech landscape, diversity is not just a buzzword – it’s a strategic advantage.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can attract, train and nurture diverse talent in your tech teams, get in touch with our team today.

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