The UK is facing serious technical skills shortages. According to the British Chamber of Commerce’s paper published in February 2017, three in four businesses now have a digital skills shortage amongst their employees.
The survey carried out across 1400 UK businesses also revealed that 84% of companies saw digital and IT skills as more important to their enterprise now than they were two years ago. For 21% of these companies the shortage was ‘significant’ and for 3% it was ‘critical’.
The British Chamber of Commerce went on to comment that business leaders needed to be aware of the impact this will have on their bottom line if not tackled. There is clear evidence to support the notion that better digital skills make businesses more productive and a lack of them hold companies back.
Indeed, it’s not just digital skills that are in short supply with the the UK Commission for Employment and Skills stating that 43% of all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) vacancies in the UK are difficult to fill.
So what’s happening to address these skills shortages, what can you do, and how is CAF getting involved?
Government provides digital training
In October last year the UK government put forward an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill in an attempt to take the estimated 10M digitally unskilled adults out of their ‘digital darkness’ by providing free computer skills training.
For many Government critics this was a case of too little too late, arguing that provision of basic skills to adults was not going to help UK businesses deliver against critical digital roadmaps.
Wouldn’t it better to offer these skills to school pupils and encourage involvement in a more entertaining and digestible format at a much younger age?
In fact the start of the pipeline is indeed being addressed and there is plenty of activity to get primary school kids involved in technology, in an attempt to increase the future supply of technical specialists.
Code club is now a thing in most schools up and down the country and it’s not just for geeks. Even children as young as five are encouraged to understand the technology behind their favourite gadget, be that smartphone, tablet or laptop.
There are currently more than 4600 after school code clubs teaching 65,000 kids aged nine to 11. The clubs help children learn HTML, Python and Scratch; making games, animations and websites and are often led by volunteers from local businesses.
The rise of the tech apprenticeship
Further down the pipeline are degree apprenticeship schemes aimed at students interested in augmenting university life with that of a vocational apprenticeship. With typical university debts amounting to in excess of £40k this option is increasing in popularity. Get paid, get a degree and get work experience - what’s not to like?
What is CAF doing to help?
We recognise the skills shortage problem in our own sector and have been shocked by the recent predictions of Gartner that enterprises will struggle to find the in house skills to fulfil their digital transformations and mobile projects.
So as well as making moves to retain our own highly skilled staff we’ve also been taking part in educating the next generation through career fairs for primary school children.
In education motivation is key and there is no better way to motivate our future tech colleagues than to show what career options are open to them from professionals who actually work in the field.
Chesterton Primary school in Battersea understands this, and organised a job fair for their 11-13 years old to learn what roles pupils could aspire to within the tech industry, and we were honoured to be asked to take part.
We learned a lot from the children and were really surprised and pleased when they demonstrated an already deep understanding of design and programming languages. We quickly realised that we could speak to them in the same terms as we do with any other colleague at CAF. We shared knowledge about an app lifecycle, the role of a project manager, product owner, designer, programmer and software tester.
Our conclusion is that today’s kids know exactly what they want from life and how they are going to get there. Change and revolution is in their blood and we are extremely proud that we could bring their future work environment closer to them.
This has to be the way forward to address skills shortages. The enthusiasm is boundless and there are no preconceived notions of what is boring - just open, questioning minds.
So in answer to the question 'who cares about the skills shortage?' - seems a lot of people do, and they are willing to volunteer their time to help swing the tide of change. Chelsea Apps Factory is happy to come to any school in London to take part in similar job fairs. Just drop us a line and let us know.