Bridging the Digital Skills Gap
The last few years have seen unprecedented gains in digitalisation accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the need for digital skills continues to increase, many companies are still catching up when it comes to getting talent with the right skills into the workplace.
A major shift in how people work has also exposed the significance of the skills divide. With more than one in 20 households in the UK having no access to the internet, digital poverty is compounding the divide.
As a result, organisations are searching for candidates with digital expertise, and those candidates are looking for employers who are willing to train them. This leads us to ask the question: what opportunities are businesses missing exactly? And how can organisations drive digital inclusion to close the skills gap?
According to a recent report by the Learning & Work Institute, 92% of organisations state that digital skills are key to success, helping to drive growth, innovation and productivity. Of those surveyed, 23% of employers admit that their existing workforce lacks basic digital skills. The significance of this on organisations is evident: two-thirds of employers believe that a lack of digital skills will affect the profitability of their business.
What drives the digital skills gap?
Young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are especially vulnerable to digital poverty due to the lack of access to devices and the internet. According to the Learning & Work Institute’s report, one in five households with children in the UK has no access to an appropriate digital device, while more than one in twenty households do not have any access to the internet.
The digital skills shortage has also had a critical impact on recruitment. A shift towards a candidate-driven market means that candidates now have more options than ever before, as well as more leverage over benefits and salaries, with so many employers looking for the same skills and talent.
According to a report by TechNation, the average tech salary is up to 50% higher than the average for all vacancies in the UK and is still increasing. Similar to the environment, and the energy crisis, if the skills gap is not addressed effectively, we may find ourselves sleepwalking into another crisis and discovering the challenge too late. We have reached a position where finding digital talent has led to unsustainable practices and we need to find a way to ‘leave fossil fuels behind.’
Creating Sustainable ‘Net New Digital Talent’
As an industry, we have a responsibility to support the training and development of ‘Net New Digital Talent’ into the market. This will simultaneously fill the digital skills gap, provide opportunity to under-represented parts of society and regulate cost to companies - creating the digital skills equivalent of renewable energy. FDM has highlighted over the last 30 years that it can recruit 15,000+ people with limited or no tech experience, train them in specific areas of technology and nurture them into specialist IT careers. This approach to tech careers has been demonstrated at large multinational corporations and with equal success at smaller innovative organisations. An inclusive approach to training creates a bigger and better talent pipeline. By making our training programmes available to a diverse pool of people, we can address the skills shortage issue at its root and create a steady pipeline of business-ready professionals who can start adding value from day 1 of deployment.
We believe that there is an opportunity for the UK to address its digital skills gap by ensuring that people from different backgrounds are not overlooked for opportunities in businesses and that there are ways to upskill and embed ‘Net New Digital Talent’ in your organisations successfully.
Getting the right skills into the workplace can be facilitated by various learning and development organisations including skills bootcamp provided by Institute of Coding, which FDM has been collaborating with for many years. Apprenticeships are another way of upskilling staff, which ensures building a workforce personally developed to the individual business needs.
In a constantly evolving tech landscape, businesses are faced with unique organisational challenges and objectives that necessitate a demand for specialist talent. At FDM we are working in collaboration with a number of partners such as Salesforce and Amazon Web Services to develop bespoke training courses that can fill niche talent gaps. Having the right recruitment partner can help businesses to close their skills gaps and prevent digital and social inequalities from widening further.
We acknowledge and understand that technology teams will require a balance of experience to deliver effectively but we challenge the industry to revisit the scales – as leveraging the right combination of experience and ‘Net New Digital Talent’ is the only way to address the digital skills gap and allow the whole UK technology ecosystem to thrive.