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The Digital Skills Gap

Is enough being done to plug the hole?

3Aug

The tech industry is booming, and nowhere more so than in the UK. London houses one of the world’s fastest growing tech clusters, with the technology and digital sector accounting for 251,590 jobs in London according to TechCity.

More jobs today require a level of adequate understanding of digital skills, as well as many industries seeing a growth in digital focused jobs. As technology advances and mutates, and jobs are created in the industry which have not previously existed at all, it is a constant battle to find candidates and a battle for educational establishments to keep education up-to-date.

It appears, however, that Europe is failing in this regard. Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find candidates with the appropriate skills. Figures released by the European Commission last month suggest there will be 825,000 IT vacancies across Europe by 2020. There are a number of implications that have come about as a result of this failure. A study by IDC5, a tech research company, revealed that the time wasted as a result of inadequate digital skills totalled 21% of digital workers’ total productivity.

Rectifying this situation requires a number of people to pull together. Schools, universities, governments, firms, and candidates must all work to ensure that people are being employed who can leverage new technology.

This starts with the schools. Moves to change the curriculum so that, for example, coding is taught, are positive yet inadequate. They are failing to properly realise what is required to bridge the skill gap within the digital world. Careers guidance in schools is painfully behind the times, and the industry is only just beginning to really embrace apprenticeships, which have had considerable benefits in other sectors that have had experience skills gaps in recent years, such as plumbing. By improving the communication between schools, universities and businesses we could create more confidence in relevant education, and ensure we are creating the best opportunities. In this vein, BIMA is launching a Digital Day, to take place on 17 November 2015, which will allow schools to work with digital agencies to raise awareness of digital career opportunities.

Companies also need to be more proactive, and we are seeing moves being made to do this too. Sky has built a brand new, world-class technology hub in Leeds that will create 400 highly skilled jobs. Sky group CEO Jeremy Darroch said of the project that: ‘Digital skills and innovation are at the heart of what we do at Sky, helping us give customers the best possible TV experience, whether at home or on the move. With our investment in Leeds, we’re creating one of the largest digital communities in the UK. We are looking forward to bringing hundreds of new jobs to the city and giving young people the opportunity to build their skills and help shape the digital services of the future.’ Another company using innovative methods to get the right people in place is Software company Redgate. Redgate is now employing people that will work exclusively during term time, to cater for parents reluctant to work because of the costs of childcare.

Initiatives such as these are great news for the digital sector, but they must be taken advantage of and encouraged by governments, either through subsidies or raising awareness. The risk to the economy of a failure to do this are too great to be ignored, and any investment will pale in significance to the losses that would arise if the situation is allowed to continue.

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