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UK risks falling further behind on digital skills, warns parliamentary committee

Government’s forthcoming Digital Strategy must address systemic problems with digital education and training as a matter of urgency, warns the Science and Technology Committee today.

Responding to the report, Charlotte Holloway, Associate Director of Policy at techUK, said:

“We welcome the Committee’s timely and important contribution to the future of the UK’s digital talent. People up and down the country are increasingly living as digital workers, consumers and citizens. For the UK is to realise its staggering digital economy potential, it is essential that the Government and industry together get to grips with the scale of skills needed to meet that promise. The case for investment in digital skills is clear as businesses right across the country adopt and exploit the benefits that new digital technologies are bringing to the UK economy. We now look to the Government to make digital skills a core component of the forthcoming UK Digital Strategy.”

“A number of the recommendations in the report echo the tech sector’s concerns, and the vast majority of techUK members already believe their commercial operations are hindered by a lack of digital skills. In particular, the Government must ensure that the outcomes of the Apprenticeship Levy are fully geared towards developing the high-skilled digital workforce of the future and that implementation of the levy meets the needs of the some of the most innovative companies in the UK.”

techUK is pleased that the Committee’s report echoes a number of the recommendations we submitted in both oral and written evidence to the Committee. These include:

  • Digital skills should be a core component of all the 3 million apprenticeships the Government is aiming to create by 2020.
  • The qualifying requirements for the new IT roles in the Shortage Occupation List under the Tier 2 visa should be reviewed, making it easier and more flexible for companies to recruit the best global talent.
  • The Apprenticeship Levy should be seen as an investment, which can be used to retrain existing staff. techUK further recommends that the Levy should also be used as an opportunity to retrain those looking to return to the tech sector – such as women returners and armed forces veterans.
  • The Government needs to work closely with employers, higher education institutions and schools to understand the apprenticeship marketplace; to ensure that education aligns with industry’s requirements; and that apprenticeships are delivered in a flexible way to adjust to future changes in the digital sector.
  • The Government should work with the Further Education sector to develop ‘Digital Colleges’ across the country, replicating the ‘Ada’ National College for Digital Skills model.
  • The Government should increase its investment in teacher training in the Computing Curriculum as a long term commitment.
  • The Government needs to work with employers and educators to better understand and address why female students in schools, colleges and universities do not apply for digital courses and careers.
  • To address immediate gaps, Government should put in place coherent strategies to address the shortage of skills of particular strategic importance to the UK economy—including cyber-security, big data, the Internet of Things, mobile technology and e-commerce—and how these capabilities should be introduced in workforce training.

The full list of the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions are available here.

For more information on techUK’s work on Skills, Talent and Migration, please get in touch with:

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