Belfast-based IT company demonstrates proactive approach to skills challenges

Posted By:
The Open University

4th Nov 2021

The UK skills shortage is being felt across every sector, region and nation of the UK. In Northern Ireland, 69 per cent of employers report a skills shortage in their organisation, with nearly half (46%) saying their biggest challenge over the next five years will be their ability to find staff with the right skills. These findings are taken from The Open University’s (OU) latest Business Barometer report (, published in partnership with The Institute of Directors (IoD)

The report, which analyses the UK’s skills landscape on an annual basis, found that a significant number of employers in Northern Ireland are taking a proactive approach to addressing skills gaps. Almost half (46%) have introduced training in the past 12 months to bolster employees’ skills.

One such company is Datactics. Based in Belfast, the 60-person company provides business user focused data quality and matching technology for international clients. But, like many other businesses, it has struggled to recruit experienced people with software development skills. As a result, Matt Flenley, Head of Marketing at Datactics, said the organisation decided to address recruitment challenges through taking a proactive approach. It is focusing on building a strong internal talent pipeline and using training to build employee loyalty and improve retention rates. “Over the last year and a half, we identified the problem that recruits and graduates are available but are not the exact perfect fit, so we wanted to be better at training. This gives us faster access to a workforce that can deliver for our clients.”

Flenley took part in a recent OU webinar called Creating a sustainable skills strategy to attract future talent ( Alongside Laura Burley, Apprenticeships Ambassador at the OU, and Dr Roger Barker, Director of Policy and Corporate Governance at the IoD, he talked about the importance of ongoing skills development to plug internal skills gaps and to help boost local skills and the local economy. “Upskilling our employees and upskilling our capabilities just increases our competitive edge on an international stage,” he says.

All full time Datactics employees are offered the opportunity to take a training day once a month. That training can be job related or it can be something an employee chooses to do for personal fulfillment. Like many other local businesses, the company has also gone down the apprenticeship route. It currently has two apprentices in fields of software development and security.

Datactics has a history of working with the OU. Impressed by the distance learning model, the company recruits people who are taking business and computer science degrees with the OU. “We have always been blown away by the fact that people can balance study and work,” says Flenley. “Because we have a strong tie with The Open University locally in Belfast, we have been able to fill certain positions in Datactics with Open University students quickly, and then continue to train them up.”

The company is now creating a data academy in partnership with the OU and other education providers. The data academy will run one-year programmes aimed at people who want to work in IT. Candidates who go through the programmes will be eligible to take up full time employment with Datactics, as well as gaining certification. “We see this training programme as being beneficial to us and our business community as a whole,” says Flenley.

To read the Business Barometer 2020 report visit:

To watch the webinar visit:

To get in touch with The Open University to discuss skills challenges, please email