to bridge or not to bridge - the IT skills gap.

Looking for work can be stressful, especially when there's so much competition for the best jobs. Technology is one industry where this is not such a problem though; due to a shortage of professionals who are suitably trained for IT jobs, companies providing digital products and services are struggling to find enough people with the skills they need. To help shed some light on the situation we've put together a report examining how this skills gap arose, possible solutions for the industry and advice for workers who are seeking work in the tech field.

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Perhaps ironically, the digital skills gap is caused by the success of the UK tech sector. The digital industry has seen rapid growth in recent times, and it shows no signs of slowing down – in fact, all the indicators suggest that this development will continue to gather pace. The digital sector is creating jobs at twice the rate of other industries, and 14% of UK job postings in the first quarter of 2017 were for technology positions. Because so many new IT jobs are being created, there are no longer sufficient workers available to meet the demand, leaving the industry and government scratching their heads over how to fill this skills gap and secure the talent needed to sustain the present level of growth into the future.

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The real issues the IT jobs industry faces.

The key issues uncovered in our report were cyber security, an area that requires in-depth knowledge and is growing very quickly due to the increasing need for businesses to protect their digital assets, an ageing workforce that doesn't possess the skills and training needed to fill the range of IT jobs that are becoming available, and the rapid rate of technological change, which is creating more and more jobs that need to be filled.

While this could be seen as a threat to the UK economy, we’d prefer to view it as an opportunity for those seeking work to move onto a career path that is secure and well paid. New job opportunities are being created all the time, particularly in areas like IT security, software programming and computer systems analysis. Our report found that the average salary for a tech employee is 36% higher than the UK average, and with the government pouring funding into training the workforce to meet demand, anyone interested in pursuing an IT job will be well supported.

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Furthermore, if the tech sector can team up with policy makers and educational institutions to find ways to attract and then train a diverse workforce for an industry that's often painted as the preserve of socially awkward nerds, there's no reason to believe that it won't be a win-win situation for all. The UK is already regarded as the digital capital of Europe; In 2016, the turnover of tech companies was £170 billion, and the industry received £6.8 billion of tech investment – over 50% more than any other European country – so as long as the current skills shortage can be addressed, things are set to get very exciting.

So how can digital companies fill their IT jobs with suitably skilled employees, and maintain balance into the future? Actually, in our report we found an array of complementary solutions, which would need to be implemented by the government, industry and educators, as well as individual members of the workforce.

 

What can be done to improve the current situation?

The most important area that needs addressing is education and training. Employers need to work alongside schools, colleges and universities to ensure that students are graduating not only with the specific tech skills they need, but with the full skill set that will prepare them for working life when they complete their education. Companies can also pick up the slack by offering training to both new and existing employees for the roles they're struggling to fill. The government has an important role here too, in creating a framework that will support this training and provide funding to ensure that it can be provided effectively.

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Another issue is that IT jobs are seen as unattractive by many – often, people who have the creative abilities and people skills needed to flourish in this field are put off by the nerdy image portrayed by the media and popular culture. Finally, employers must promote diversity, encouraging the tech-savvy younger generation to get under the hood, providing opportunities to older workers and women – who are massively under-represented in the industry, and offering attractive packages to skilled workers from abroad.

Individuals who are seeking work can also play their part – those in the groups named above will be attractive to employers who recognise the value of a diverse staff, and youngsters who are considering their careers will do well to learn the skills that will enable them to work in the tech field, where job security is high and opportunities for career progression abound. There are a number of job roles that are currently under-served by the workforce, and these are particularly worth looking into.

If you want to find out more about the causes of the skills gap, the key issues faced by the technology industry, possible solutions to the situation and how you can exploit it to find work in the field, download our report.


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