The IT Skills Gap in Post-COVID-19 UK
One of the most pressing issues in both the IT and recruitment sectors is the need for more skilled professionals in jobs that have a large skills gap and just as much demand. The UK's IT skills gap is not even simply a sector-based problem but has grave and far-reaching economic impacts as well.
What Caused the IT Skills Gap in the UK & Europe?
While there are quite a few reasons for the current skills gap in many areas of the IT sector, the main contributors are the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Brexit, and salaries.
The awakening of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices using modern smart technology, has meant that the tech of today becomes obsolete tomorrow. Innovation is hard to keep pace with when it grows at an exponential rate. Additionally, many new jobs and responsibilities have taken on greater importance for many businesses.
The result of this exponential growth of technologies means that skilled IT professionals have to upskill themselves continuously, and go deeper and deeper in a niche speciality. Brexit also aggravated the situation as it caused shifts in the tech and economic market early on, which saw much of the unsure European talent travelling to other parts of Europe. While the current situation has calmed considerably, the amount of EU IT talent is not where it was pre-Brexit. The impact the pound has also received has meant that fewer people are willing to risk taking new jobs with new employers. Likewise, fewer businesses are eager to invest in new employees that they would need to train up and upskill.
Many of the most popular jobs in the IT sector, such as Database Manager, Big Data Engineer, or Mobile Applications Developer see some of the highest salaries in the industry. Naturally, people occupying these roles seldom leave without just cause, although this is not necessarily true for the contractor market. However, that again is based on experience, and the more you accumulate, the more in-demand you will be. Those at a junior level thus often have to wait around longer for the positions to become available before they can gain a well-rounded understanding of all it entails.
Solving the IT Skills Gap Crisis in the UK
The IT skills gap is impacting the UK economy to such a degree that a sturdy from Accenture shows that employees lack the expertise required to satisfy the requirements of digitally-driven businesses. They report that the skills gaps could cost the UK an extraordinary £141 billion in GDP growth over the next ten years.
So what is the answer to solving the IT skills gap? While this is a rather complicated task, there are quite a few exciting options to consider.
AI Could Resolve the IT Skills Gap
A recent G20 think tank, Think20 (T20) has researched the benefits of AI-centred educational technologies and believes it may be integral to solving the skills shortage. The research found that it's not only individuals shifting from education to the workplace who require significant investment but the already employed IT professionals as well. The rate of change for skilled talent is too high not to upskill.
There are four critical recommendations offered as to how the UK can embrace AI to help ease the demand for skilled labour.
- Embracing and regulating industry micro-credentials
These are essentially bite-sized chunks of education, whether an online course, boot camp certificate or apprenticeship from a traditional university, speciality provider or online learning platform
- Government funding for workplace learning in traditional sectors, as well as those working within the platform and gig economies
- Promotion of immersive, interactive AI for skills development as a learning aid and not a replacement for teachers
- Promotion of innovative technical and vocational education training institutions with the backing of quality control and licensing bodies
These four points would help to foster greater outreach for both skilled workers currently in the IT sector and those training to become employees of the future. However, each country needs to consider what strategy would best suit them as COVID-19 has displaced many plans for the EU.
Diversity and Inclusion May Help Bridge the IT Skills Gap
According to a recent report, a more gender-diverse team is 21% more likely to outperform a more homogenous one, for both profitability and value creation. Moreover, more ethnically diverse teams are 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. Hiring for greater inclusion and diversity is therefore not just something that we need to strive for as a sector but could very well be a saving grace for the tech sector itself.
This form of inclusion can also extend to different age groups. One CWJobs report states that UK tech employees start encountering ageism at the age of twenty-nine and are deemed 'too old' for their industry by thirty-eight. This age discrimination not only negatively impacts individuals but companies too, and also doesn't take into account the individual's skill level and ability to upskill.
Yet, businesses with an increased age diversity have 19% higher innovation revenues and 9% higher earning margins.
While it's obvious that younger generations may have a more solid grasp of the latest or emerging technology, older generations who have lived through different trends have more experience. This experience can be vital to insights into the future of both the company and tech.
Create a Mandatory Upskill Programme
Ultimately, to truly close the skills gap businesses will have to work together and continue down a road of strategic programmes for their employees to be able to enhance their skills and knowledge. Providing a three-point plan may help not only upskill your team but also persuade potential hires to want to join your business.
Three essential features of an effective upskilling programme would be to make the courses/education mobile, make it easy to comprehend and offer unique lessons that the employee would not find anywhere else. Especially now, in our COVID-19 era of working from home, offering your team the ability to remotely access their upskilling programmes will make it much easier for them to complete. Not only that, but making the lessons themselves smaller, more relevant, and personable will make the employee grasp the concepts at a quicker rate. When you couple this with offering unique courses in the latest tech, or taught by the best in the industry, others will take heed and want to be part of your team.
The Future of Tech is About Upskilling
While it may not be the cheapest option for the immediate situation, consider what not offering these options can not only do for your team but your business as a whole in the upcoming years. The tech sector is one that lives off innovation. To stunt its growth is to imagine its downfall. That's why the best course of action for business now is to plan an effective strategy that is within your budget.