Our MD Katie Gallagher discusses tackling the digital skills gap and the importance of taking it back to the classroom to keep us at the forefront of the digital sector.
The UK is currently in the grip of a major digital talent shortage.
This is a problem which is costing the industry dearly, with more than half of tech and digital businesses offering inflated salaries in order to attract skilled talent.
This issue is being exacerbated by the economic uncertainty caused by Brexit, and as it stands there is little reassurance or information available for companies around the free movement of skilled labour from the EU, where we currently source around 10 per cent of our digital talent.
Some of the main barriers to the UK solving its own talent problem lie in poorly thought-out government policy, a lack of joined-up thinking around education, and a shortage of investment in scalable solutions that will really deliver change.
So, how do we go about solving this? Well, it begins in the classroom.
Last year saw major advances in disruptive technologies, with mixed reality and artificial intelligence now moving into the mainstream.
However, from a skills perspective, this creates an entirely new set of problems. If our education system isn’t fit to deliver the current demand for digital skills, how on earth will it keep pace as new demands are created?
In fact, recent research found that more than six million graduates already deem their degree courses outdated in relation to the present day job market.
If we are to stay ahead in this ever-changing landscape, we must drastically change the way tech is taught in our schools. It’s no longer enough to simply have a computing curriculum – we need tech professionals who can teach the next generation of digital talent in a way that reflects the needs of industry.
We also need to be working to increase the entire talent pipeline by encouraging more people into a career in the tech industry.
Clearer progression routes from school are also sorely needed, and must be far more appealing to a wider range of students.
The impetus is on employers to upskill their current staff, and to look further down the talent supply chain and structure their recruitment strategies to allow for apprenticeships. However, as digital apprenticeships tend to be hugely technical, we need the right people in place leading them and enforcing quality standards across the board.
The solution to the skills shortage is multi-faceted, and it needs everybody to play their part.
We can’t just leave it up to politicians, who use the tutelage of our young people to score cheap points and bump up their approval ratings.
While Brexit is looming larger by the day, it is by no means the only issue. Our position as a world leader in the tech sectors is under serious threat, both in terms of industry and capacity, and other countries across the globe are desperate to overtake us.
Considering that many countries have coding and computing at the heart of their curriculum, there is a very real danger that we will be left behind. It has never been more crucial for us to take proactive measures to remain at the forefront of the global digital economy, and the time for us to act is now.