Inclusive hiring is the key to digital transformation in the public sector

Guest blog by Sheila Flavell CBE, President at techUK and COO at FDM Group.

The digital revolution has transformed every aspect of our lives, from how we shop and travel, to how we communicate and access information. Yet, despite the advances made in technology, the public sector is still grappling with a dearth of digital skills. What is needed is an approach of digital inclusivity and equality, which can help address this shortage.

In the 2021 Spending Review the UK government has committed to investing an additional £8 billion in digital, data, and technology transformation by 2025. This is a step in the right direction as it will enable outdated and inefficient legacy systems to be replaced, delivering better services and greater value for taxpayers.

Preliminary reports predict the following savings:

  • Over £1 billion from cutting the cost of paper-based services
  • £101 million per year by the end of 2025. This will be facilitated by a strategic digital remuneration plan aimed at reducing attrition rates and the high costs of hiring external contractors

However, this investment must be driven by a robust digital strategy that can transform the way we access public services.

More and more people are engaging with the government online every day, whether it’s to establish a business, renew their driver’s licence, or obtain entitlements such as Universal Credit. This is reflective of the growing preference for conducting daily charges online.

Challenges of digital transformation

While digital transformation has the potential to deliver significant cost savings, it is important to recognise that it’s not without its challenges. One of the biggest barriers to the digital transformation of the public sector is finding a steady stream of talent that matches both skills and affordability criteria.

This means investing in training and development programmes that enable existing employees to upskill and reskill themselves, while also attracting and retaining new talent.

Inclusive hiring processes that tap into alternate sources of talent can help organisations fill their specialist skills gaps. This looks beyond traditional sources of talent, such as universities and colleges, to underrepresented groups, including those with disabilities, those with extended career breaks, ex-forces personnel, and those from low-income backgrounds.

This helps create a more diverse workforce, which is not only more representative of the communities it serves, but is also better equipped to tackle the complex challenges facing the public sector.


Apprenticeships are an excellent way for organisations to build a workforce with Net New Talent that is custom-made to meet specific business needs. According to UK government data an estimated 613,900 people participated in apprenticeship programmes in 2021/22, recording a 3.3% increase from the previous year. This is not surprising considering rising university fees compounded with the cost-of-living crisis.

At FDM we run a unique three to four- year apprenticeship programme that combines work and training. At the end of the programme, apprentices earn a BSc. Digital Tech Solutions degree. They have the opportunity to work with clients on live projects and network with people from diverse backgrounds. 

No STEM, No Problem

Digital inclusivity is also achieved with the acceptance of candidates from non-STEM backgrounds. Organisations can gain access to a wide cross-section of people with unique skills, perspectives and experiences if they can overcome their own pre-set notions of certain ‘profiles’ doing certain roles within their teams.

At FDM, we understand the unique challenges faced by the public sector during this critical time, where a comprehensive digital transformation is underway.

Public vs Private

The public sector’s success depends not on competing with the private sector for top talent. Instead, it relies on building a self-sustained framework of talent creation that can be scaled at speed to meet the changing needs of the sector.

We can facilitate and expedite your ambitious transformation journey by delivering a constant flow of skilled resources that is both affordable and sustainable.

By joining a strategic talent solutions partner like FDM, public sector organisations can adopt digital inclusivity and equality to the hiring, training, and development of diverse talent pipelines. In doing so, they can build a resilient workforce, capable of delivering better services and greater value for taxpayers.


Sheila Flavell CBE

Sheila Flavell CBE

techUK President, Chief Operating Officer, FDM Group

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.

If you wish to contact a member of the Board, please do so via [email protected].

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