To combat the growing digital skills crisis, the UK Government announced during London TechWeek earlier this month that it’d be launching a new digital strategy, which amongst other policies, is set to include a digital skills council. Estimates suggest the digital skills gap costs the UK economy as much as £63 billion a year in potential GDP, and the digital skills council will aim to tackle the gap at all levels through training and other initiatives.
Although the steps taken by the government are important, many industry commentators believe that the private sector must also play a role in upskilling the nation and helping close the gap. Dahwood Ahmed, Regional Director UK&I at Extreme Networks, believes that technology vendors have the obligation to do more and provide solutions to this problem themselves to maintain the talent pipeline, he explained:
“Technology is so wide-reaching that it touches almost every part of today’s modern workforce, so the digital skills gap is a concern for businesses of all sizes, across every industry. The government-backed Digital Skills Council is a step in the right direction, but there’s more that we can all do. The channel is reliant on having highly skilled personnel and technology vendors that rely on the channel must support it adequately so it can continue to support end users. In times of need it can be easy to assume somebody else will take the lead with these initiatives, but technology vendors cannot rely on this. To ensure the channel ecosystem remains supported it must be supported through programs that attract new talents and up-skill those already within it. It is during these times that technology vendors must review their training offerings to include enabling a wider skilled workforce and to ensure they are building from the ground up by offering foundational enablement at grassroots, at scale.”
Although training is certainly one way to bolster the number of skilled workers, Sheree Atcheson, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at Valtech, believes creating an environment where all backgrounds are catered for is important, she remarked:
“Tech is a rapidly growing industry, so it’s reassuring to see the UK Government factoring in the development of digital skills to strengthen the pipeline of tech talent. For private businesses, it’s crucial they implement schemes to bolster their workforces and the wider UK technology ecosystem. One of the ways businesses can do this is to ensure they have diverse workforces. Technology doesn’t have one type of user – applications and software solutions are used by most of us, so it’s crucial that people working in these areas are reflective of society. Businesses should not just be targeting roles at those that already dominate the sector but hiring people from all backgrounds. A diverse workforce brings a range of different perspectives and experiences together to solve some of the complex issues facing society today. This is exactly what the tech industry needs if it’s to attract talent for many years to come.”
It’s clear the skills gap isn’t a problem for tomorrow but is one that needs to be tackled today. Jon Lucas, Founder and Director, Hyve Managed Hosting, believes businesses need to get on the front foot and work to hire and retain staff more effectively. He said:
“A few years ago, the idea of a digital skills gap was unthinkable but that hasn’t stopped one emerging with Hays reporting 3 in 20 UK employers are facing a digital skills gap. It’s reassuring to see this problem being tackled by the government as part of their latest digital strategy. Some businesses will undoubtedly be ahead of the curve with robust employee retention schemes already in place, but organizations need to do more, they need to be proactive.”
Lucas also believes that recruiting partners to provide the right level of support is going to be vitally important. He concluded:
“As companies continue to navigate a global skills shortage, outsourcing will have to become a core tool in a business’ arsenal. An outsourcing strategy isn’t about replacing in-house teams but to support them and complement their work while relieving pressure on HR teams who can then focus on talent acquisition and retention without such high pressures”
There are no simple solutions when it comes to closing the skills gap, but the push by the UK Government to fix this will be boosted by private sector initiatives that will benefit the entire ecosystem. Although the gap may look daunting now, implementing plans and taking the right approach today will start to create a brighter future for digital skills in the UK.
The author, Jacob Greenway, is the PR Director for Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry.