Open University survey suggests HTQs solution to digital skills gaps

According to the survey of 425 senior IT managers, 57% believe their employers do not invest enough in training staff

A survey by the Open University suggests most senior IT managers in the UK are struggling to recruit and upskill staff in vital digital skills.

The survey suggests three-quarters (77%) of employers have skills gaps in their organisations. Nearly seven in 10 respondents (69%) said it was difficult to recruit skilled staff, and 62% struggled to upskill existing human resources.

The OU-commissioned poll found that more than eight in 10 (84%) employers regard higher technical qualifications (HTQs) and apprenticeships as an effective way to address this long-term challenge.

Just over half of those polled said they plan to increase the digital skillsets of staff in the coming two years.

HTQs are a new route to provide the skills needed to close some of these critical gaps in organisations
– Jacky Hinton, Open University

The survey solicited the views of 425 senior IT managers working in companies in England with 20 or more employees. The survey sought views on digital skills gaps and how they plan on closing them in their organisations soon. Nearly half believe enhanced digital skills would make their business more productive (46%), and a similar proportion believed upskilling would improve staff retention (48%).

Fifty-seven per cent of those polled believe their employers do not invest enough financial resources in training.

Cybersecurity skills topped a list of technical abilities respondents felt their organisation lacked most (42%), followed by software development (36%) and network engineering at 24%.

Jacky Hinton, director of apprenticeships and HTQs at The Open University, said: “As organisations continue to rely more and more on digital capability, this survey shows that it can be challenging to recruit staff into digital roles and keep existing employees up to date with relevant digital skills.

“HTQs are a new route to provide the skills needed to close some of these critical gaps in organisations.

“Approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, they have been developed in collaboration with employers against particular occupational standards.

“The Open University is proud to be one of the first institutions to offer HTQs in Network Engineering and Software Development, which as the results show, are some of the roles that employers lack and are finding it challenging to recruit for.”

Read more: DCMS survey highlights huge cybersecurity challenge for education sector

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