People and processesDigital SkillsBridging the skills gap in the UK is essential

Bridging the skills gap in the UK is essential

To shorten the skills gap, greater collaboration on skills initiatives is needed, alongside parent and student engagement

With the demand for talent in the UK technology industry outweighing supply, the skills gap will continue to widen unless positive action is taken to ensure digital skills training initiatives are joined up.

The caution comes from Kainos, a digital services and platforms expert, after a new study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) listed the UK among countries that need to do better at digital up-skilling.

While several initiatives and programmes aimed at closing the skills gap exist – for example, earlier this year the UK government announced twelve technology institutes to boost technical skills and training – a lack of collaboration between enterprise, education and government is hindering effectiveness.

Last week, Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright announced that the UK government will be making an investment of £13.5 million to help develop artificial intelligence in education (AIEd) and data science conversion degrees, with scholarships for people from underrepresented groups.

Skills gap will grow

Kainos’ Chief Technology Officer, Tom Gray, recently set up a digital forum with the CBI in Northern Ireland, which encourages proactive collaboration between businesses and the government. The group is focused on building the digital skills needed to create world-leading software and digital services. He believes that this model could provide a roadmap for other regions.

Tom said: “Experts predict that there could be as many as 750,000 unfilled IT jobs in Europe by next year. Unless businesses start working more closely with the government and educational institutions to equip the next generation with the right skills, this gap will grow. If we don’t act now, it would have a serious impact on the UK’s GDP and quality of life.”

Owen Sims, Senior Policy Advisor at CBI NI added: “The UK is at a tipping point on digital skills. The demand for talent is greatly outstripping supply throughout the economy. Recently, the CBI found that over two-thirds of businesses in the UK are reporting unfilled digital skills vacancies – and this is set to skyrocket. The UK has massive potential to lead in software engineering, but to do so we need to have the right talent; we need to inspire the next generation.

“Doing this requires collaboration at all levels. The Digital Forum established by the CBI NI brings together business, government bodies and educational organisations to better understand and tackle the digital skills gap in the region. It helps build meaningful partnerships that enable industry to cooperate, coordinate actions and compete globally. We are already seeing great progress in Northern Ireland and are keen to encourage constructive relationships throughout the whole of the UK.”

CodeCamp and A.I.Camp

As part of its mission to help close the technology skills gap and encourage collaboration, Kainos created the Kainos Academy, which runs a comprehensive series of training and educational events for those who are passionate about a career in technology. Kainos works with leading universities, government departments and other businesses and business groups to create programmes that will help to unearth the best digital talent. It also works with parents and teachers to ensure children are educated about potential careers in IT. To date, over 5,000 people have benefitted from the Kainos Academy.

In its seventh year in Belfast and first in Birmingham, Kainos CodeCamp will teach 14-18-year olds the core essentials of everything from automation to cybersecurity, even giving students the chance to build their own app. The two-week-long programme will run from Monday 22 July – Friday 2 August. The closing date for applications is 21 June and Kainos is currently inviting applications from students.

Kainos A.I.Camp will also be making a return, following the success of last year’s event, where many of those who attended were offered full time jobs at Kainos. A practical course for STEM university students teaching the fundamentals of AI, A.I.Camp will take place in Birmingham from Monday 9 – Saturday 21 September and Belfast from Monday 19 – Saturday 31 August.

Both camps are free to attend and form just the first step of a potential learning and employment journey.

Affecting the public sector’s resilience

Bridging the gap between education and business is essential. At a recent event, Dame Nancy Rothwell – Vice Chancellor at Manchester University – said: “Digital skills are essential across every business presenting many opportunities for the next generation. But many parents talking to their children about their careers will be more focused on traditional jobs – like being a doctor, or lawyer. We need to educate parents and those working with children of all ages about the opportunities that a career in tech can open up for them.”

recent report found that nearly one fifth (18%) of public sector organisations are currently grappling with a basic technical cybersecurity skills gap. The ongoing solution for this issue has been outsourcing, with two-thirds (65%) of public sector organisations using external support as a stopgap. But as the complexity and frequency of attacks are only set to rise in the future, continued outsourcing is not a sustainable solution.

Discussing the mismatch between the demands and availability of skills for cybersecurity in the UK, Chris Huggett, Senior Vice President, Europe & India, Sungard Availability Services commented: “Public sector organisations need to better understand the impact of the cybersecurity skill shortage on overall resilience, security, cloud computing and other IT functions—and the best ways to bridge the gap.”

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