28 Feb 2023

Joint Government, tech and finance industry roundtable highlights need to signpost pathways to close the digital skills gap

techUK and the City of London Corporation joined Minister for Employment, Guy Opperman MP, and Minister for Technology, Paul Scully MP, to discuss how government and businesses can close the digital skills gap and grow the UK economy.

It is no secret that the UK is facing a digital skills crisis. Every year, hundreds of thousands of digital roles are posted on job boards across the UK – and yet, a huge number of these jobs go unfilled.

This is an issue the private sector and Government are acutely aware of. That is why on 8 February, techUK joined forces with the Rt. Hon. Nicholas Lyons, The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Minister for Technology, Paul Scully MP, and Minister for Employment, Guy Opperman MP to hold a roundtable to actively come up with shared solutions.

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Nurturing digital talent through Government and business collaboration is crucial to capitalising on the opportunity that digital jobs and growth bring. According to research by Virgin Media O2 and CEBR, it is estimated that UK workers are missing out on additional earnings of £5.69 billion due to a lack of digital skills.

The roundtable highlighted the need for better signposting of pathways for people to gain digital skills, from returners seeking to re-enter the workforce, economically inactive people, and people seeking to switch up into digital jobs.

Training and re-training in digital skills is not only a win for businesses seeking to fill their job placements, but it brings massive rewards to the employees as well. Digital jobs are a key route to a high-salary high-productivity economy, with average salaries estimated at £62,500 – well above the national average.

The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor Nicholas Lyons noted that as 88% of UK businesses are facing a shortage of digital skills, it is paramount that private firms and Government work together to get ahead of the skills gap. To this, Minister for Employment Guy Opperman MP, strongly agreed that at the heart of the solution is collaboration.

Minister Opperman stressed the Government’s intention to make it easier for employers to fill their vacancies and recognised that, while there is a lot of activity in the digital skills space, working together will ensure that current efforts are greater than the sum of their parts.

techUK, which represents over 940 technology businesses in the UK, is keen to highlight ways to bring alternative pools of talent in front of businesses, so that they will no longer be considered as outside options. We need to showcase to career switchers and those returning to work after a career break the opportunities in the tech and financial sectors. Any such messaging needs to be highlighted across the UK’s nations and regions and not only centralised in London.

In the short term, it is key that businesses and government collaborate to retrain employees so they stand ready to face our increasingly digital world and can fully gain the benefits of learning digital skills. In the long term though, early education also needs to change – the traditional pathways to employment will need to develop to ensure people from all backgrounds can learn vital STEM and digital skills, and standardised accreditation will help prospective learners and employers in recognising the qualifications needed for digital careers.

And in the long term, this conversation will continue and grow so that we look for sustainable, workable solutions.

The digital skills gap has been slowing the UK economy down for years and as we face a cost of living crisis, we know that digital transformation can make a mark for people and businesses – it’s time businesses and government roll up their sleeves and ensure that the plan emerged from the roundtable is activated.

Minister for Employment Guy Opperman MP said:

It was fantastic to spend time with a range of tech employers to hear about their experiences and suggestions to help close the digital skills gap.

“Digital skills are paramount for life and work and this joined up approach will allow us to explore more solutions that support people to gain digital skills, building on the offer already in place.

“I want to make it easier for employers to fill their vacancies and will be working across government to make this happen.

Margherita Certo

Margherita Certo

Head of Press and Media, techUK

Nimmi Patel

Nimmi Patel

Head of Skills, Talent and Diversity, techUK