The tech sector is growing, but what about its digital skills gap?

As 2022 draws to a close we are provided with an opportunity to reflect on what has been and what is still yet to come.

The UK tech sector has grown substantially since Brexit took effect in 2020, the real effects having been masked until now by the ensuing global pandemic. It has only really been in 2022 that the business community has been able to properly see the opportunities, and the challenges, that the sector faces.

It is, without a doubt, a growing and innovative sector with concepts such as web3 and metaverse appearing to loom ever closer. Indeed, even at a basic level we are seeing more and more technological advances appear in our everyday lives. They are more often than not, the solution to a societal problem.

In terms of its significant to the UK, the tech sector is estimated to bring in just shy of £125bn to the economy by 2025 alone, such is its potential. But at the moment, that is simply an “estimation”. A major obstacle is the ever-widening skills gap. To fulfil the lofty potential, the sector is expected to generate (and need to fill) 675,000 jobs on top of retaining the near 1.7 million people already employed within it.

This is where things get tough. The sector is currently experiencing a widening skills gap. The hare is outracing the tortoise, as they say, with businesses struggling to meet demand in filling specialist positions. Positions such as data scientists, senior developers, IT analysts and system engineers remain vacant despite appearing on the shortage occupation list and commanding generous salaries. Larger organisations have looked to overseas talent to plug these specialist gaps whilst simultaneously engaging in a wage inflation war with competitors in a bid to keep top talent. But this isn’t a long-term solution. The cost implications alone in both activities has already created a bubble, and bubbles usually burst.

Is there a quick fix then? Not really. The industry can’t just conjure up a trained workforce to plug such a large gap. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And like all good marathon runs, it’s going to take preparation to succeed. The government must take some responsibility and continue to introduce levies, tax credits and incentives for business to invest in training and create pathways into the sector at grassroots level, encouraging business to push digital training up the agenda. The private sector though is encouraged to diversify its expectations and seek to upskill from other parts of the business and/or support those who want to enter the sector by providing training opportunities, experiences, programmes and sponsorship options.

Let’s hope that in 365 days from now we can reflect on 2023 bringing us a resolution to this issue and not a gloomier picture.

Closing the digital skills gap is in the interest of everyone who wants to overcome these challenges and those that will emerge in the future, and build a better future for our industry, the British public, and the planet as a whole.

Sheila Flavell CBE, the president of techUK


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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