01 Jul 2024
by Sheila Flavell CBE

Driving Social Mobility in Tech


Navigating the ever-changing tech landscape has become a critical challenge for businesses today. With AI leading the charge, organisations are constantly playing catch-up to adopt new technologies and cultivate the specialist skills necessary to implement them. A recent survey we at FDM Group conducted, revealed that whilst 64% of organisations are already using AI, 48% don’t have the specialist skills to maximise its full potential.

These statistics show a significant skills gap that’s preventing almost half of organisations from implementing and leveraging cutting-edge tech that could considerably boost business efficiency and productivity.

In fact, the current skills gap is expected to cost the UK economy £63 billion per year. Interestingly, a recent Microsoft report has found that 71% of hiring managers prefer junior candidates with AI skills over seniors without them. So, businesses should invest in developing both new talent and upskilling their existing workforce to effectively close the skills gap.


Social mobility

At FDM we have always championed social mobility by making tech careers accessible to underrepresented sections of society. Our career development approach enables anyone with the right work ethic and mindset to achieve a role in industry.

Through our apprentice, graduate, ex-forces and return to work programmes, we’re closing the skills gap in the public sector and providing a workforce that is diverse and reflective of the society we’re trying to serve.


FDM Skills Lab

FDM’s Skills Lab is a dedicated space designed for our consultants to hone their practice-relevant abilities. It acknowledges the importance of equipping consultants with not just theoretical knowledge but also practical experience, thereby enhancing their overall efficiency and employability.

The experiential learning offered to consultants in our Skills Lab provides a broadening of capabilities, thus facilitating greater social mobility through accelerated career progression.


Working with the public sector

We have over 10 years’ experience working with public sector clients across the UK and partner with over 30 public sector organisations across central government, the Scottish government, higher education, defence, local government and the NHS. With 3000+ consultant assignments to date we have 400+ consultants transitioned to the civil service.

Our regional and inclusive career programmes provide future-proof tech careers to underrepresented sections of society whilst offering diverse talent pools to the public sector.

Our efforts have seen us rank 34th in the 2023 UK Social Mobility index, and we are proud to support the public sector's social value and levelling up initiatives.


Opportunities in tech

There is immense opportunity for the technology sector to facilitate social mobility, perhaps even more so than most other industries, with diverse career opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds. Unlike other high-earning industries such as law or medicine where stringent academic qualifications are often prerequisites, the tech sector embraces multiple entry routes.

At FDM, we have historically supported candidates from non-STEM and non-Russell Group university backgrounds to join tech careers and prioritised potential over previous experience.

· 30% of our graduate consultants come from a non-STEM background

· 70% of our graduate consultants come from non-Russell Group universities

We assess each candidate individually, using a degree-agnostic approach and a low-grade threshold of 2:2, ensuring equal opportunities for all. Our emphasis is on potential and the right mindset, allowing individuals to showcase their capabilities and contribute meaningfully to the tech sector’s rapid evolution.

This accessibility democratises access to high-earning opportunities for all and helps build a more diverse and equitable workforce and future.


Unlocking Gen Z’s potential

With Gen Z set to make up 27% of the workforce by 2025, businesses need to pay attention to this demographic and find ways to leverage their talents and potential. Research from our new whitepaper ‘Breaking generational stereotypes’, has found that over two-thirds of Gen Z believe changing companies is the key to career growth whilst the same number are dissatisfied with available learning resources at their companies.

This highlights the need for organisations to offer skills development and diverse experiences to improve Gen Z talent retention and long-term loyalty.

Addressing the tech skills gap through focused investments in talent development and inclusive career opportunities is not only vital for business success but also for promoting social mobility. FDM Group’s commitment to accessible tech careers and practical training shows how organisations can create a diverse, skilled workforce ready to meet the demands of the future.


Sheila Flavell CBE

Sheila Flavell CBE

President, techUK

Sheila is the President of techUK and Chief Operating Officer and Executive Board Director of FDM Group. She has over 30 years’ experience in both the public and private IT sectors. Sheila played an integral role in the Group’s flotation on AIM in 2005 and was a key instigator of the management buy-out of the Group in 2010 and its subsequent listing onto the main FTSE Market in June 2014 and more recent entry into the FTSE 250.

Sheila’s experience and knowledge of the sector has been crucial in driving the Group’s global expansion programme. She is fully committed to promoting all forms of diversity, especially women in Tech and spearheads FDM’s Women in IT campaign and FDM’s ‘Getting Back to Business‘ programme, aimed at providing opportunities for women looking to return to the workplace. She is frequently called to advise government committees on various issues. Most recently she gave evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee on bridging the digital skills gap.

She has won numerous awards over many years for her services to the Tech industry, including a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by ‘Scottish Women In Tech’ and was most recently recognised in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List, by being awarded ‘Commander of the Order of The British Empire’ for services to ‘Gender Equality in IT and Graduate and Returners Employment.’ She is regularly listed as one of the Most Influential Woman in Tech in the UK, by Computer Weekly and has also been regularly named as one of the Most Influential Women in the North American Mid Market’ by CEO Connection.

Sheila is a keen helicopter pilot who also likes to plant trees, play golf/ski and cycle.

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