Will we have the skills for a bright digital future?
In these uncertain times, it’s comforting to hold up digital as a shining example of UK economic success.
This is, after all, an industry that contributes around £100 billion a year to the nation’s wealth – some 6% of GDP. It’s also an industry set on a growth trajectory, with the total number of digital jobs forecast to increase by 25% -over the next decade, far outstripping the expected growth rate for all jobs – a mere 8% over the same period.
So all’s rosy in the digital garden, right? Well, no.
Because while the demand for tech and digital jobs is on the up, the supply of people available to fill those jobs is falling behind.
Recent Tech Partnership research found that 180,000 companies that employ digital specialists – around half the UK total – are experiencing skills gaps among their staff.
It’s hard to credit that we aren’t producing enough digital talent, given the exciting and hugely varied opportunities that exist in the sector. There’s no one single explanation as to why this should be so, but here are three trends to give cause for concern:
- Across the UK, the digital workforce is aging: only 7% of digital specialists are under 24 – half the level for UK workers a whole.
- Too few young people are attracted to digital education: school students generally prefer other subjects, with IT related A-levels accounting for just 1.6% of all A-levels taken.
- Too few girls in particular see their future in a digital career: women account for only 16% of the digital workforce, and only 8% of those taking A-level computing.
No one business can tackle the problem on its own. In the words of the African proverb ‘If you want to walk fast, walk alone – but if you want to walk far, walk together’. That’s why employers, large and small, and from across the country, have chosen to work collectively as the Tech Partnership – a charity that supports the digital economy by developing current and future generations of talent.
Employers in the Tech Partnership are collaborating in three critical areas: inspiring new and diverse talent into digital careers; raising the quality of digital skills training and education; and enabling employers to offer high quality digital apprenticeships.
Signing up to the Tech Partnership is entirely free, and carries no obligations: it’s simply a way for you as a business to demonstrate your support for the Partnership’s aims. In return, you’ll receive regular news updates about digital skills. You’ll also be invited to input your views on digital skills issues employers, to government and others on digital skills policy and practice. Sign up for free today.
Philip Rubenstein is head of marketing at the Tech Partnership.