Future-proofing the UK's IT talent pipeline

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By Carlyne Loh

We live in an increasingly digital world. A world in which new technologies play an ever more important role in the economy and society. Where businesses need to update employees’ skills to remain competitive. And individuals need to stay up to speed with the changing digital landscape. Yet young people are apparently shunning IT courses, fuelling employer’s fears of a growing mismatch between the rising demand for skills and the falling supply of trained recruits.

The demand
Digital skills are viewed as essential entry requirements for over two-thirds of UK standard occupations. While 82% of online job vacancies want applicants with well-equipped digital knowledge. The demand for specific digital skills is soaring across all regions of the UK, especially in industries such as Finance & Insurance, Information & Communication, Real Estate and Science & Tech.

London has the highest demand and the largest skills gaps. Research reveals that 60% of UK businesses believe their need for advanced digital skills will increase over the next 5 years. But less than half of British employers think young people will be equipped with sufficiently advanced digital skills. And the number taking ICT courses has declined in recent years.

The supply
Despite 88% of young people believing that digital skills are essential for their career and 51% aged 16 – 24 interested in pursuing a career that requires specific digital skills, there is a low uptake of ICT courses. So why have young people become disengaged with IT as a career? Here are a few theories.

Digital poverty – on the eve of the pandemic, nearly one in ten (9%) young people had no access to a laptop, desktop, or tablet at home. In lower socio-economic groups, one in five (21%) households with children had no access to an appropriate device, and over one in twenty (6%) had no access to the internet.

Gender bias – 62% of young men are interested in a digital career, compared to just 42% of young women. A similar gender gap in young peoples’ confidence in their digital skills, is reflected in their participation in ICT courses at school, in apprenticeships, in higher education, and in the digital tech workforce.

Unclear career paths – there’s a lack of understanding and guidance about where studying IT could lead. Beyond the perception of working on an ‘IT helpdesk’, there’s little awareness of potential career paths or clearly defined job roles in certain fields.

Influencer validation – look at life through a young person’s eyes and there’s a lack of relatable role models. Digital, IT and tech professions need a make-over in order to appeal to young people and become aspirational, in particular, young women.

The opportunity
By understanding why the current supply is failing to meet the future demand, various opportunities have been identified to get the IT talent pipeline flowing again.

  • There’s an education piece for employers to go into schools and join the dots between what young people study and where that could lead as a career.
  • There’s a chance for schools and higher education to collaborate with employers and the tech industry to offer students a ‘bridge’ into the workplace.
  • There’s an opportunity to clarify the day-to-day reality of a career in tech. To excite and inspire young people about the potential.
  • There’s the opportunity to make recruitment more diverse and accessible. To help young people from non-technical backgrounds into technical roles.
  • Tech programmes are currently being launched for girls in schools and higher education to encourage them into business and STEM subjects.
  • And employers should reskill and upskill their workforce and get better at supporting workers through apprenticeships in IT related subjects.

The future
We’re committed to working with employers and education providers to play our part in helping to revive IT talent and get the UK’s pipeline flowing again. If we can support you with your upcoming attraction and resourcing needs, please get in touch.