Three steps London tech firms can take to close the digital skills gap

Sheila Flavell CBE, COO of FDM Group and Deputy President of techUK, shares her steps to successfully closing the digital skills gap during London Tech Week 2021.

As the largest and most influential tech hub in the UK, the capital ‘has the highest proportion of employers who require advanced digital skills’. As such, London is where the effects of the digital skills gap can be felt most acutely; upskilling employees’ digital skills was named as the top priority of London businesses in a poll of business leaders, emphasising the urgent need of technically-skilled talent.

  1. Seek new ways to hire talent

My advice to London tech firms if they’re finding it difficult to source and recruit the skills they need is to reassess where they’re looking. Too often, companies get stuck in a rhythm of using the same methods, recruiters and processes when all this does is attract the same kind of employee. If you’re looking to attract exceptional talent with the skills you need, it’s important to cast the net wide. Ask yourselves, are you doing everything you can to attract diverse, digitally-literate talent?

Take a step back and scrutinise every element of the process, from the job description to the interview and beyond. Review your job descriptions for indications of unconscious bias, removing any words that could be perceived as gendered or ageist, as well as any unnecessary ‘must have criteria’. In some cases, companies ask for certain criteria as standard, without it being strictly necessary to that specific role, e.g. ‘Excellent verbal and written English skills’ may not be necessary for a highly technical coding role.

To tap into an entirely new talent pool, review where you place your job advertisements and be sure to explore alternative recruitment partners.

  1. Break down barriers to entry

The social and economic benefits of greater diversity are clear for all to see. According to a recent report, gender diverse teams are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability,and ethnically diverse teams are 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability.

While slow growth has been reported in recent years, it is estimated that still just 19% of tech workers in the UK are women, and around 18% of tech workers are from BAME backgrounds, which highlights that there is still drastic work to be done in London, and across the UK as a whole. According to research, the lack of female representation in the UK tech sector can largely be attributed to the lack of girls choosing STEM subjects at school, absence of female role models and shortage of information about what a career in tech entails,

As industry leaders, London tech firms should seek to lead the way for the rest of the sector in breaking down the barriers to entry for underrepresented groups. Consider collaborating on initiatives that seek to promote the exciting opportunities that a career in the tech sector can bring, such as workshops, open days and digital upskilling bootcamps to inspire women and people from BAME backgrounds to pursue a tech career. In this way, tech firms can help to create a steady pipeline of tech talent for years to come, ensuring future success and safeguarding London’s status as the UK’s tech hub.

  1. Devise an upskilling programme

Undeniably, one of the most effective ways to ensure your business has the digital skills it needs is to invest in the talent you already have. Define the digital skills that your organisation needs to thrive and build dedicated upskilling programmes that can equip your existing employees with new skills. Work with your internal L&D teams and Subject Matter Experts to create a training programme that can be delivered on an ongoing basis. Not only is upskilling a relatively cost-effective method of closing your digital skills gap and ensuring that your firm keeps pace with new technologies, but it also helps existing employees feel valued and motivated.

If your company lacks the time or bandwidth to execute a full digital skills upskilling programme, be sure to explore the numerous local government and Mayor of London schemes and university-backed courses available.

Alternatively, if you’re in need of business-ready talent that you can hire immediately, another option is to partner with an expert to build your talent pipeline. FDM Group helps tech firms in the UK build a diverse and sustainable talent pipeline that can support both long- and short-term goals. FDM provides industry leading programmes across multiple technical disciplines, from Software Development and Cloud Engineering to RPA and Data Engineering, matching highly skilled technical consultants with leading London tech firms. You can learn more about FDM Group’s services here.


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.

[email protected]
020 7331 2176

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