06 Feb 2022
by Harry Gooding

Challenging the digital skills gaps – time for change?

Harry Gooding, Director, Hays Enterprise Technology Practice - UK and Ireland writes about the ways organisations can approach skills gaps differently.

Across the labour market, organisations are arguably experiencing the most challenging hiring market for some time. The demand for talent has rocketed across the majority of sectors and news headlines of late have been dominated by the lack of available talent to meet this demand.

The skills gap within technology is more acute than it’s ever been as technology has been a key driver of workplace changes over the past few years. More and more jobs are being created that require digital skills – but the pipeline of talent to support this is nowhere near strong enough. The rate of digital transformation is only accelerating but organisations don’t have the talent to keep up.

Now is a key time across the labour market to look at the technology skills development pipeline through the review of pathways to employment, training, and development. There’s huge opportunity for unexpected talent, those from non-traditional education backgrounds and those displaced by Covid, with investment of time and re-training who can help us begin to fill these gaps in the labour market – to everyone’s benefit.

So, what could be some solutions to finding the right skills?

Typically, those entering the IT and technology industry have had degrees in technical disciplines – and there hasn’t been enough support towards those who have left education and haven’t completed a degree. Similarly, many academic programmes aren’t aligned to the true needs of today’s employers and many graduates leaving university find they still need further training.

Getting into technology in particular needs to work across all routes of entry - so expanding to apprenticeships, school leavers, graduates as well as businesses up-skilling their own staff to ensure a steady pipeline of talent at a minimum.

However, the approach needs to be inclusive. Employer-led training models, often the hire-train-deploy method, where professionals can secure a job but are liable for their own training costs isn’t feasible and alienates a large proportion of potential talent. For the talent pool to be wholly inclusive, professionals need an opportunity to have access to a secure job opportunity, earn and learn at the same time.

The apprenticeship levy has the potential to enable apprenticeships to become a sustainable route to ease some of the skills challenges the technology sector is facing. Apprenticeships offer the opportunity for those who aren’t degree educated to receive a recognised academic qualification, however the learning needs to be aligned to employer’s needs.

Industries such as recruitment have a big part to play in bringing this together, by supporting young people, and all generations by informing them of what skills employers need, how they can be best applied and the best options to learn and secure job opportunities.

Are we ready to do things differently?

The Learning and Work institute recently reported that the number of young people taking IT subjects at GCSE has dropped 40% since 2015, and the same research revealed that 70% of young people expect employers to invest in teaching them digital skills on the job, but only half the employers surveyed in the study are able to provide that training.

Statistics like this are really concerning, especially compared to the level of the demand for digital skills predicted. Looking at Salesforce jobs alone – 144,000 new Salesforce jobs will be created in the UK by 2025.

Positively, employers are more willing to recruit staff who might not tick all the boxes or fit the job description exactly. In our Salary Guide research, 57% of employers told us they were committed to hiring people who don’t possess all the required skills, with the intention of upskilling them – however this number needs to be much closer to 100% of employers.

We’re supporting this too, in areas including looking to non-traditional routes into tech such as retail and call centre staff to present them with the opportunity to go through the necessary training to go onto secure Salesforce jobs and move through the career paths available.

The changes that Covid-19 had on the way we work has forced organisations to adapt quickly, embrace change and challenge old ways of doing things. This is exactly true of the digital skills gap and is an opportunity for businesses to create more diverse and inclusive workforces, whilst supporting learning opportunities that will carve out career paths for future talent, making a job in technology accessible to everybody.


Harry Gooding

Harry Gooding

Director, Hays Enterprise Technology Practice - UK and Ireland

Harry Gooding is part of Hays Technology, working across our Enterprise Technology Practice and supporting new initiatives around skills development. After beginning his career in recruitment, he then worked in VC backed start-ups and scale-ups for six years across two different portfolios before joining Hays.