Diversifying the UK’s tech talent pool is crucial for closing the growing skills gap

Dominic Harvey, director of CWJobs, on how we can empower the qualified tech workers of tomorrow

Unfortunately, we are facing a skills crisis, and those with tech specialisms on their CV are becoming increasingly harder for companies to find. People who possess these skills are in a fortunate position and shouldn’t be short of options career wise. In fact, eight out of 10 (80%) UK businesses are swayed in their future hiring decisions, according to our recent research, should a potential candidate have a tech specialism – no matter what sector they are in.

To alleviate this growing crisis, businesses have repeatedly called for tech to be given an increased prominence in the national curriculum. Whilst studying IT or tech at school has not been seen as the most exciting subject historically, more than two-thirds (68%) of business leaders today believe that being educated in tech subjects such as coding or data analytics provides more valuable skills than the so-called established ‘core’ academic subjects, such as maths and science.

For this reason, over half (53%) of UK business leaders are convinced that students are not being taught enough tech, and the majority of these leaders (71%) are urging prospective candidates to learn these tech specialisms to future-proof their careers.

An urgent, but addressable issue

It’s fair to say that the UK should look to better reflect and address tech skills at a young age in the education system – however, that isn’t going to solve the problem now. To immediately start closing the gap, organisations should be looking at developing the skills within their existing workforce, while also looking outside their standard talent pool externally.

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Looking internally, upskilling and training are key methods companies can use to train existing employees on the skills they need. This can benefit a company greatly because the employee already knows the business, ensuring business continuity and diversifying the talent available to the team.

From an external perspective, one of the ways to reduce that gap is through a concerted effort to recruit more diverse talent. Looking at the gender gap specifically, more must be done within the industry to encourage women into tech roles and help close the current gender imbalance. We’ve seen research prove, time and time again, how even specific wording of job descriptions can attract or deter women from applying.  What’s more, it is proven that a diverse workplace bolsters businesses; companies that have at least one woman on their board of directors outperform those that don’t in terms of profit.

Looking ahead to the next generation, today’s students will become the highly skilled tech workers of tomorrow, filling a variety of exciting and expanding roles in modern organisations, but they need help getting there. A key part of this will be promoting role models to inspire children to go into tech. Offer them work experience placements or apprenticeships too, and invite them to work alongside the people that can help spark their interest in the sector.

The UK’s tech skills gap is a growing threat that needs to be addressed in if the country is to compete on a global scale. Ensuring the talent pool is diverse, from both a talent and skills perspective, is vital for reducing the gap. But it needs to be seen as an ongoing battle. Should the gap start to reduce for the current workforce, the industry must ensure it’s looking to the future and not making the same mistakes as it did before.

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