Addressing labour shortages in the hi-tech FinTech sector in Cyprus

Donna Stephenson, founder of Emerald Zebra, a leading recruitment specialist in the Technical and Finance sector in Cyprus, recently joined a panel at the Forex Expo (Finexpo) in Limassol, Cyprus. The panel discussion focused for some time on the issue of talent shortages in the FOREX and Financial industries and in particular the shortage of experienced tech talent, both locally and globally. As well, many employers in the sector believe that recent graduates don’t always have the necessary skills when entering the corporate world, so they must be willing to expend onerous amounts of time and money on employee training. Consequently, there was a general accord amongst business leaders that things need to change. 

Ever since the post-industrial period, there has been an accepted notion that to enter professional sectors like banking, accountancy and, more recently, technology, people must go to university, graduate and join an organisation of their choosing to put their first foot on the career ladder. Once established in their jobs, regular periods of vocational training and professional development are meant to turn fresh-faced graduates into seasoned employees.

Donna Stephenson states that “Employers in the UK and the US for example, are now turning to established methods of ‘modern apprenticeships’, to help bridge the talent shortage gaps.” and she poses the question: “Could early career/school/college leavers or even career-changers apprenticeships be a great way forward for bridging some of the gaps here within the Cypriot FinTech and related sectors, rather than accepting talent based on a first degree and experience?”  

Apprenticeships and Internships are valuable

Apprenticeships hold many advantages for employer and employee alike. Firstly, they are a debt-free option for young people wary of running up many thousands of dollars, euros or whatever in student loans.  Additionally, opportunities for employees to achieve qualifications whilst working allows companies to invest in their employees directly, whilst overcoming some of the barriers to attracting top talent.

Apprenticeships don’t come without their own issues, of course. Trainee employees require able mentors; just ‘being around’ experienced people and asking questions isn’t sufficient to provide meaningful training in itself. However, most managers want to give back their experience for the common good – they appreciate their own routes of achievement and see mentoring as a satisfying and valuable activity.

But apprenticeships need both private and public sector support, such as government employment subsidies and the creation of partnerships with school career officers and universities. The issue of work permits for overseas employees would also be an extremely practical and timely solution to this talent deficiency.

Thought leaders at the Forex Expo tended to agree that the Cypriot labour market has changed, with people being happier in their jobs and work environments than ever before, especially those offered a degree of Work from Home (WFH) benefits in the post-pandemic hybrid professional demographic. On one hand, less ‘job-hopping’ is a good thing; but in the longer term, the source of talent for the jobs of tomorrow needs to be quality-assured.

Donna Stephenson feels that there must be a combined approach from government, the private sector, universities and colleges to home-grow these required skills, whilst also attracting the diaspora of Cypriots, and other Europeans, from overseas to return home or migrate to Cyprus, especially after studying.

Donna spoke to a repatriated Cypriot at the Forex Expo who has very recently returned to live in his homeland. His background is very relevant as he holds many of those key highly sought skills, yet his opinion of employers in Cyprus is not so positive. He said:

“There is this underlying impression held by me and a few Cypriot friends, stretching from many years back, that a career in Cyprus is not something that we could seriously pursue…”. Since returning to the island, he started his own company.

Changing perceptions of the Cypriot employment climate is essential.

Local employers recognize that attracting talent is key to success, to the extent that forex firm Exness even offers every expat worker a Mini Cooper Countryman! Constantina Georgiadou, PR manager for Exness, said:

“…the incentives fulfilled a dual purpose by helping to get the right workers into place and then keeping them there. On a company level we try to make Cyprus and working for an employer like us as attractive as possible through all the incentives and benefits we offer. Among the incentives we give is a Mini Cooper Countryman to all expat workers as well as benefits for their spouses or families.”

Together with such material incentives, firms that encourage progression by management mentorship schemes, offering a degree of WFH capability and nurturing talent is the way forward. If we instigate these incentives now, the shift we might achieve over the next five years could be seismic.

Re-skilling for the future

Donna poses an important question: How can we empower talent in the forex, finance and FinTech sectors(and not only) to develop essential business skills along with other competencies such as coding, for example? Can Forex and Fintech enterprises reskill people in areas such as data analytics, project management, software engineering and business development? In short, things need to change. Only by offering tangible benefits, realistic debt-free vocational development and on-the-job re-skilling will Generation Z become the business leaders of our brave new shrinking hi-tech world.

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