The latest news from SoA


In a recent article BBC highlighted that we are headed towards a digital skills shortage catastrophe. The Learning & Work Institute supported this by suggesting that the number of young people taking IT subjects at GCSE has dropped 40% since 2015.

This number is not encouraging for businesses looking to transform digitally. Finding the right talent pool to support digital transformation goals is easier said than done. In this blog, we’ll discuss 5 of the biggest challenges that businesses face when trying to hire automation experts.

1. Lack of Training

The Learning & Work Institute's research reveals that 70% of young people expect employers to invest in teaching them digital skills on the job, but only half of the employers surveyed in the study are able to provide that training. This is where SOA comes in and helps bridge the gap the skills gap by developing skills of the future such as process automation and RPA. The specialisied training and hands-on experience facilitated is available for new entrants to the industry but at the same time can be used to upskill existing employees.

2. Lack of Awareness

Much has been written about the current “IT skills gap,” which deprives many businesses of the tech talent they need to achieve digital transformation. An Open University estimates that the UK skills shortage is costing organisations £6.3 billion each year. But the key question is despite the huge demand, why is there a lack of talent?

· a lack of understanding and guidance about potential career paths

· a lack of relatable role models

At SOA, we have learnt from our experience that lack of awareness of the opportunities available in a career in automation is a big roadblock. We have been working with xxx, to educate talent of the possibilities it can open up for them.

3. Matching a specialised skill set

Even if you’re looking in the right places, it’s no easy feat to find strong candidates who check all the technical boxes on your list. The software and technology field has countless disciplines, subdisciplines, and skills that offer nearly limitless possibilities for specialisation.

To successfully execute a digital transformation strategy, many businesses need access to experts in artificial intelligence or specialised technologies such as robotic process

automation (RPA). While it’s sometimes possible to train new hires or existing employees, this training can be costly in terms of time, money, and effort—and it can distract from workers’ core missions.

4. Properly assessing candidates

Of course, the job of a headhunter isn’t over once you’ve sourced a pool of candidates that match your specialised skill set—you must then assess them to verify that their knowledge and capabilities are up to par.

This part of the hiring process usually takes the form of one or more technical assessments, which may take the form of in-person or phone interviews, coding challenges, quizzes and tests, or reviews of a candidate’s previous work. Unfortunately, far too many of these technical interviews miss the mark. According to a 2020 study by Microsoft and North Carolina State University, many such interviews for software engineering positions are better at assessing a candidate’s level of performance anxiety rather than their technical competence.

When assessing technical candidates, you can take several steps to improve the instructive nature of the assessment: for example, inform the candidate about the assessment ahead of time; ask questions that are directly relevant to the role; and include both an in-person and a take-home component.

5. Offering an appealing workplace

Finding competent tech staff is challenging, but organisations also need to ensure that they offer an appealing workplace environment. This includes concerns such as:

· Is the salary commensurate with the knowledge and experience asked for, and competitive with similar positions?

· Is the work interesting and engaging?

· Does the position offer accommodations such as working from home, flexible hours, or a strong work-life balance?

· Are there other perks and benefits, such as a casual dress code, free food, or a good pension program?


The five challenges mentioned above mean that finding skilled tech staff to enact digital transformations is no easy feat—and what’s more, it may not be the best move for your organisation. Hiring, onboarding, and training the right full-time staff is a lengthy, expensive process, especially in technical fields. You must then pay the costs of a full-time employee, including salary, bonuses, and insurance.

Instead, many organisations are turning to solutions like SOA’s apprenticeship program to find automation specialists and gain access to the tech skills they need for digital transformation.

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As part of SOA’s vision statement “To broaden the opportunities for people to release their creativity and develop the technical skills to transform the world around them” we have 4 key pillars:

1. Broadening Opportunities

2. Release Creativity

3. Develop Technical Skills

4. Transform the World around them

Releasing Creativity

The thought of releasing someone’s creativity sounds really liberating and something we should be doing, right? The wording itself sounds positive and why would you not want to do this? Let us start with what do we mean by this. We believe that all people have potential, and all people can be creative, its understanding what stops us from being creative.

Creativity is a sought-after skillset by many employers. The world of work is changing rapidly and as we embrace more and more technology and digital transformation our work tasks are changing, and we are using technology to complete manual, repetitive tasks, and processes. We require people to think creatively to solve business problems to work in collaboration with each other and have more time to focus on customers and value-added tasks.

This is not new; we are already starting to see this change and we have a huge challenge to prepare people for the future of work and address the skills that they require. Within this Forbes article, it states the mains skills needed for the future of work – creativity placed at number one:

Okay, we know that we need this, the question is…

How and what stops us?

Creativity: the use of imagination or original ideas to create something

To be creative we must think about our environment and how we are feeling. We must look at ways of being inspired which we will find from our surroundings, through the space that we work in, to the people we are around. Our minds must be free to think, be imaginative and try something new and most importantly know that it is ok, and you will be supported by your colleagues and leaders within the business to express yourself.

The world of work has changed and the thought of working 9-5 for 5 set days in the week no longer appeals to everyone. We can now look at a hybrid model of working and collaborating in the office or working from home. It is about choice and finding what works for you to be at your best to enable you to work productively. Life is about balance and this includes work. More than ever, we are faced with the pace of life getting quicker, but this can overwhelm us at times, and we get caught in the cycle of keeping our heads down and going through the motions. If we are to solve business problems and have new innovative ideas, we need to have the time and space to accomplish this.

Those who are leaders in business and require our teams to think creatively, solve problems and have new ideas then we must look at how we support and facilitate the environment to allow this to happen. Teams or individuals cannot just “be creative”; there is so much to consider, and the conditions can be supported by the leaders. An important factor for any leader to consider is the fact that we must get to know our teams individually and what works for them. We must ask how they are and understand how they are feeling if we are to set them tasks to be creative. If one of our team have things on their mind such as stresses, worries or feelings of being anxious, they will not have the capacity to think freely and come up with these innovative ideas. Source below highlight ways in which leaders can focus on the creativity of their teams:

How SoA enhances creativity

At SOA, our team comes with a variety of experiences in both life and work but for many of our team they are at the start of their working careers. As they progress with their careers, the skills and their abilities to be creative in their thinking, collaborate with others, problem solve will be equally as important as their technical abilities to use the automation technology and latest software. For us it is so important that we continue to address this and create an environment that encourages such ways of working by allowing individuals to grow and build on the skills they will need for the future of work.

Releasing creativity requires multiple conditions and an environment to flourish. Knowing your team individually and understanding what works well for them, will offer the opportunity to liberate our teams and set the scene to think freely.

Here are some more resources that you may find interesting:

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School of Automation have core offerings and services for people and businesses in Process Automation. We support new entrants into the sector via an Apprenticeship and a Traineeship model and offer businesses professional training services to upskill or reskill existing staff with automation skills for the future.

We want to broaden the opportunities for people to release their creativity and develop the technical skills to transform the world around them.

“We aim to offer an alternative pathway and option, for people looking for work, who want to enter a career in Process Automation or for those already in work to upskill or reskill through our professional training courses in order to meet the rapid growth in Digital Transformation.” - Marc Cooper, CEO School of Automation.

Broadening Opportunities

One of our key pillars is to broaden the opportunities and we believe there is a huge talent pool of individuals who have the potential to have a successful career in automation. Most people would agree that the route to such a career existed via an academic route through university and coming into the sector as a graduate. (which does exist, and many people do and are successful) but what about the thousands of others who choose a different route to find their way in the world. Our point is there is no right or wrong path here, we are creating an alternative path that allows more talented individuals the opportunity to train and gain the required skills to enter the sector.

Our aim is to be inclusive and provide opportunities to people who may have thought a career in automation was beyond their reach. We have started in Glasgow and have successfully run 2 courses employing 15 new junior developers who will support businesses with their automation projects. Our new developers all started with almost no or limited knowledge of Process Automation and they have successfully completed their initial training journey. We have a varied age range from 17yrs old through to 28yr olds and they all found their way from a variety of previous experiences from school leavers, college leaver, unemployed, part time working or some who previously left university. We want to show others that no matter what your previous experience has been to date, you can be part of this exciting digital transformation, and have a career in tech.

“I had no idea that I could have a career in Process Automation and now that I know more, this is the future of work” - Wayne Ncube, Junior Process Automation Developer, SOA.

A fitting example of this, is the story of one of our brightest junior developers Marla Chalmers. Marla finished her secondary education at Springburn Academy in Glasgow and was very unsure of her next steps, she had no experience of the world of work and was lacking in confidence and self-belief. Marla spent valuable time with a local training provider building on her personal and professional skills before progressing from there to our initial 12-week core training programme. It was here that we could see the potential, that Marla had a natural understanding of technology and very quickly picked up the skills required to use the Robotic Process Automation software. Marla has recently passed her UiPath (RPA Associate) industry certificate and is currently working on a client partner project (Costain Group Plc). She is an inspiration to others and works so hard to keep learning and we look forward to what the future holds for her. #women in tech

“I chose this apprenticeship programme because it is a great opportunity in a sector that interested me. I had no prior knowledge of RPA but was intrigued by it and excited to learn more. I feel like I have grown professionally and hope to evolve even further as a developer through this apprenticeship with SoA. I like that they are so focused on being creative and inspiring innovation while still caring about the people as well.” Marla Chalmers

If you are interested in finding out more about School of Automation, please get in touch through our website;

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