UK Edtech Recruitment: The Most In Demand Skills

Written by Luke Watts 23/05/2017

Luke Watts

UK Edtech Recruitment - The Most In Demand Skills
Edtech is the new fintech and you’re desperately trying to come up with a pipeline of edtech talent that will help your company fulfil their ambitions of education disruption. If you are a senior manager or perhaps an edtech founder, this post will give you an insight into the most in-demand skill sets in edtech.

read time: 6 minutes

Hi! My name is Luke, and I am a specialist recruiter within the fast moving and exciting edtech sector. I have spoken to many tech, marketing and data hiring managers within the edtech scene, and there are some skills which are increasingly in demand. If you are an HR and Talent Acquisition professional or a founder of a small company who is looking to grow your team, you need to be on the look out for candidates with these skills and add them to your passive talent pipeline (i.e send them a LinkedIn connection!) for safe keeping – because the chances are, you’re going to need these people soon!


1. User Experience (UX) design

Edtech companies need UX Designers who can design products so the user interface is as intuitive and easy to use as possible. The UX contractor market is quite buoyant at the moment.  Good UX Designers will probably have big money freelance options to consider, making permanent hires that much harder to come by.

An offshoot of UX Design which is vital is Conversion Rate Optimisation.  Previously, I have heard this described as “UX design on acid!”.  Essentially, CROs test and adjust the customer experience of a product so that acquisition, retention,  conversions or other actions are maximised.


2. Gamification

The edtech industry emphasises the benefits of gamification for improved learning. If you play it, you will learn it.

Gamification of the learning experience is a very important aspect of edtech applications

Lots of popular edtech products use gamification to improve learning, retention and performance by making their apps more fun and even adding a competitive element. Candidates with a background in game design are quite rightly highly desired. Candidates with additional knowledge of behavioural psychology, cognitive sciences or neuroscience are definitely worth reaching out to.


3. Software engineering/programming

The world of edtech is in desperate need for skilled software engineers who can program applications in the most appropriate languages. Of course, your CTO or Head of Development will be deciding on which tech stack you will use, however some useful programming languages often used in developing Edtech platforms include (but are not limited to) HTML5, PHP, JavaScript, Node.JS, Ruby and C#.

It is always a good idea to know in advance what tech your company is planning on using so that you can start building your passive pipeline ASAP.   Good quality engineers are becoming increasingly hard to get in touch with as they are continually bombarded with recruitment propositions.


4. Software as a Service (SaaS) exposure

Experience in SaaS is going to be pretty essential as your organisation grows. I am seeing this gradually become a marketing and tech specialisation in its own right, and SaaS is a key driver of Edtech startups as it allows companies to create affordable applications which can then be delivered to many users simultaneously through a browser.

For tech hires you should be looking for experience in concurrent programming, secure web APIs, building applications for scalability and employing high-availability software infrastructure.

When considering  marketing hires, it is important to look for out for marketers who have particular experience in subscription based or freemium models. The mobile app market is a very competitive marketplace and having marketers who specialise in acquisition, retention and conversion optimisation will be of high value.


5. SEO, Search and Content Marketing

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are essential to finding new learners online and building a compelling edtech brand. Edtech companies need these skills to help market their products and reach more users.

In an increasingly competitive market optimising content for search is a necessity

In a nutshell, SEO increases organic (non-paid) website traffic by elevating how high up the search engine rankings your company is for a given set of search terms.

The way people search is continually evolving, whether it is by voice search on a mobile or video search via YouTube. One thing however will stay the same.  The need for marketers who know how these various search functions work and how best to use them to get your edtech product in front of the right person, with the right message, at the right time will always be crucial to your success.

One of the key differentiators between a good search marketer and great search marketers is creativity and the dynamic flair for content that comes with it.  This truly is a winning combination with creativity being the variability that determines the success of a content strategy.


6. Mobile app development

Mobile technology is popular in Edtech as it lets people learn anywhere. Android and iOS developers are the obvious choices here as many edtech companies will have mobile apps in both app stores at some point. Xamarin provides an elegant cross development platform where both Android and iPhone apps can be written in C# codebase. Xamarin Developers are in particularly high demand. Freelance projects can pay around £500 per day for a Xamarin Developer.


7. Data science

Data scientists are some of the most in-demand roles in the tech industry. SaaS Edtech products can continually collect data about their users, and use it to improve the products they offer. There’s a focus on data-driven learning, so data scientists should have the ability to make sense of user data to help accelerate learning.

The most in-demand data scientists will normally have either a PhD or MSc in a highly numerate discipline, demonstrating their ability to handle very large datasets (or “big data” if you will), such as Astrophysics and Statistics.

SQL, R, Excel and coding experience are the basics for the majority of Data Scientists. However, the truly desirable candidates to look out for, are those with experience in data visualisation and knowledge of Python.


8. Cybersecurity

This is particularly relevant considering the recent NHS hacking incident. With most Edtech products being delivered over the cloud, cyber security skills are needed for companies to protect themselves from cyber attacks. There are also many forms of regulation which software vendors have to comply with, and they all require expert help.

Cybersecurity specialists for Edtech, need an in-depth knowledge of security standards, practices and procedures, systems architecture and administration and managing operating systems along with some knowledge of software engineering, and an excellent grasp of all manner of systems and technologies.


9. Social media

Social media strategy and the personnel you have to implement this, will be a key marketing channel for the majority of  edtech companies.

Social media platforms rise and fall in an ever changing landscape. Twitter is a great social media platform, becoming a ‘real-time news platform’.   Facebook is fantastic for organic reach and then becomes pay to play.  It is a key social platform for 16-18 year olds but then the “parent effect” causes an exodus to Instagram and Snapchat etc. etc. etc.  Change is constant.

If social media is going to propel your edtech organisation, you are going to need practitioners who can keep up with the changing tides of social media and effectively  “day trade attention” towards your company using the right platform (ref).

In my experience, ‘social media marketers’ are common, but the standout candidates really know the difference between good metrics and vanity metrics.  A good indicator of a social media practitioner with the right levels of commercial acumen to help you grow are those who have run paid social campaigns.  These professionals need to know social media platforms intimately and their campaign successes II can be easily quantified.


10. Instructional Design

Heard of Instructional Design? In short, it’s designing in such a way that learners can get the most out of the online  material and to make knowledge and skills easier to absorb. For example, using images, audio or video, and understanding that people learn best by doing.

Instructional design

This plays a vital part in edtech as it means designing content for software platforms so it’s easier for learners to absorb. To do this, technicians use elements of gamification, the design model ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation) and rapid prototyping

Furthermore, skills in information mapping (presenting information to users in a logical sequence) is a skill worth seeking.


So there you have it…In the fast-moving digital landscape, things are always evolving.  If you are looking to grow your edtech company I would definitely recommend reaching out to these talented and incisive professionals on LinkedIn.  Many include links to their previous works, so you can see their design and experience for yourself the usability of their sites.

If, however, you are already in the process of hiring data, marketing or tech talent and are looking for some extra support then please send me an email at Luke@Ignite.Digital or give me a call on 07711 006984.  I look forward to speaking to you!


Written by Luke Watts

Luke Watts

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