Why the Digital Skills Crisis Could Derail UK's Tech Innovation Drive

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As the UK’s chronic skills gap widens, the deluge of digital talent could hinder innovation for tech companies across the country. 

That’s according to UK tech chiefs who gathered in parliament for the Digital Skills Summit last night to in a joint effort to find ways organisations can plug the country’s worsening skill gap and encourage more young people to enter the world of tech.

Speaking at the Parliament Street think tank’s Digital Skills Summit, which was hosted by Dean Russell MP for Watford, several business leaders and industry experts voiced their concern for the increasing lack of digital skills in the UK and its impact on innovation in the country's tech sector.

“Embracing data transformation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence is not just a nice to have; it’s a societal imperative and will be the differentiator in the job market,” said Daniel Haville, founder of BI:PROCSI.

“To harness the full potential of these technologies, there is an urgent need for a collective effort to redefine education and workforce strategies, ensuring that every citizen has the tools to navigate the complexities of the digital landscape and contribute meaningfully to the nation’s technological advancement, directly impacting the UK’s digital economy.”

Michael Thornton, senior director of the public sector at Investigo agreed, warning that: “The UK digital capability crisis is in part caused by the archaic and clunky process organisations have in place to recognise their digital needs early, find the relevant talent and their contractual engagement models to deploy effectively. 

“Many companies have slipped behind in the modern ways of surge contracts, packaged workforces, talent pipelining and prioritisation as well as utilising pliable and effective deployment processes,” Thornton added. 

Digital Skills Summit: Plugging the Skills Gap 

It’s important to note that today’s tech talent crisis is not new. More than half of UK CEOs expressed their concerns about the lack of digital talent back in 2011. 

But in recent years, the crisis has worsened drastically, with almost 8- per cent of CEOs identifying finding quality employees as the single biggest concern their businesses face, according to the October 2021 Technology Executive Survey.

When it comes to plugging the digital skills gap and solidifying the UK’s place as a global tech hub, experts at the summit warned that organisations and governments need to unite in making gaining digital skills more accessible for young people. 

“For the UK to remain at the cutting edge of technological development, it’s clear that a joined-up approach from government and businesses is needed to ensure digital skills keep up with rising demand, and the Digital Skills Summit is the perfect platform for these important conversations about our future,” said John Kirk, Group Deputy CEO at Inspired Thinking Group



Thornton continued: “The UK workforce population now demands greater flexibility and autonomy, not even just the digital community. Greater emphasis should be paid by organisations on their models and risk appetite for creative talent engagement”.

Margo Waldorf, founder of Change Awards, said: “The UK’s investment in digital and emerging technologies puts the country on the top of the innovation race, well ahead of other economies and it is encouraging to see further investment into this growing sector. 

"In my experience successful education, learning and training, however, requires well-thought-through change management campaigns focusing on the individual’s motivation for change and clearly laid out career opportunities that highlight ‘what is in it for me’.

Sharon Davies, CEO of Young Enterprise, said: “The outbreak and ongoing recovery from COVID-19 has provided a further catalyst for the digitalisation of society, a process that has significantly altered all industries and left many confronting a digital skills shortage in their talent pipeline.

“By giving young people more opportunities to apply their digital skills in real-life settings, an “applied learning” approach can be one of the most effective ways to prepare the next generation of workers for the challenges and opportunities ahead. 

"This approach has been proven to have a direct correlation with increased engagement, motivation and helping young people develop the necessary confidence and competencies to better prepare for future employment.”



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