A digital crisis: plugging the UK’s digital skills gap

A digital crisis: plugging the UK’s digital skills gap

Businesses are becoming more digitally immersed, and it’s fair to say that many people who grew up during or after the digital revolution are unaware of how much their day-to-day life has become dependent on technology. Despite this, a recent survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) indicates there is a significant gap in digital skills across the nation[1] which is affecting productivity, and is estimated to be costing the UK economy £63 billion annually in lost GDP[2].

In the recent BCC survey of more than 1,400 businesses across the UK, it was found that the skills that are most important are basic computer skills, managing digital information and the ability to connect and communicate through digital channels.

What’s the problem?

Workloads are increasing by the day, and the added pressure of unknown technology can be a worry for many people which, in turn, can decrease efficiency rather than increase it. Equally, the training of staff can come at a cost that sometimes companies, especially those experiencing low turnover, cannot justify.

The skills gap is a hindrance to security as well as productivity. Businesses are electronically storing information more than ever before, and becoming reliant on such systems. With attacks by ransomware becoming commonplace, cyber security is becoming increasingly important to businesses, but the demand for professionals is higher than the supply. According to recruitment website Indeed, even though the adoption of cloud-computing is increasing, hiring patterns indicate that there is a strong market for those who have skills in securing network firewalls, where a lot of sensitive information is still being stored.[3]

How can it be tackled?

Outsourcing – businesses don’t need to have their own IT department to stay ahead of the digital curve, they can outsource to other IT firms instead. Here at Certus, we are an outsourced IT partner for many firms and we often work remotely, causing the least amount of disruption to staff as possible.

Policy – according to the BCC, the government needs to recognise that IT talent may need to come from abroad, so immigration policies will need to reflect the recruitment needs of the industry.[4]

Investment – companies need to start investing in their training now or risk losing out. The 2017 spring budget announced a £250 million investment into the digital industry across the next four years, in an effort to start plugging the UK’s digital skills gap. The UK government has also invested £21 million into Tech City UK and Tech North, creating a network of digital hubs in Cardiff, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and London. This will allow technical entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect with peers and potential investors in other hubs across the country, and offer adapted development programmes.[5]

Enterprise and education – education is key to upskilling in the digital industry. CodeClan is an Edinburgh-based tech academy helping to plug the skills gap in Scotland, by offering full and part time intensive coding courses. The courses are suitable for those with little to no experience who want new digital skills or to develop existing ones. In the midst of a digital crisis, it will be no surprise if we see more companies like this emerge, helping to plug the skills gap across the rest of the UK.[6]

Changing perceptions – if growth in the industry is to continue, there needs to be a change in the perceptions of IT qualifications, according to Shankar Narayanan at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Through its Digital Explorers Work Experience programme, TCS offers children of 10 to 13 years old the opportunity to talk to business leaders and entrepreneurs within the digital industry, in an effort to educate them and remove any preconceived ideas about it.

Collaboration – partnership-working between the public and private sectors will have a positive impact. Not-for-profit organisations, such as MyKindaFuture and Tech Partnership, will need to continue to work with businesses, like TCS, to continue to inspire the ‘techies’ of tomorrow, and provide them with the skills needed to help end the digital crisis.

Want to study, but not sure if IT is for you? Take a look at our top four reasons as to why you should opt for an IT-related degree.