If there’s one thing that the technology sector in the UK and abroad is acutely aware of at the moment, it’s that there is a growing skills gap facing the industry.
It has been a much-talked about subject over the last couple of years, as the number of employees entering the workforce has failed to keep pace with the rising demand for people possessing technical skills in areas such as cloud computing, cyber security and big data.
In the UK specifically, the industry is at an interesting crossroads. A 2016 study found that a significant number of UK-based businesses are looking overseas for IT talent, but with Brexit on the horizon, it could become trickier for organisations to attract talented personnel from abroad. If this is the case, we’re going to have to rely on home-grown talent to fill the void.
The government has already taken steps to tackle the issue. For example, Boris Johnson launched a £5 million digital skills programme for young Londoners back in 2015, but MPs have urged the government to do more to address a digital skills gap that is costing the British economy £63 billion a year in lost productivity.
The skills gap in the UK was the topic of conversation for Amazon Web Services (AWS) last week at an event in Westminster where it announced the launch of AWS re:Start, a free training and job placement programme focused on software development and cloud computing.
“The cloud is at the heart of what it means to be a successful business and an effective government in the 21st century and a thriving economy. But, we’ve also concluded that having an infrastructure built for the 21st century is not, on its own, enough. It needs people to drive the benefits,” said
Gavin Jackson, UK managing director at AWS.
“There’s no question that the UK is bristling with some of the best minds in the world when it comes to technology. But Britain is ambitious. It’s creating new tech entrepreneurs and new companies, but at the same time, more companies and governments are awakening to the potential of cloud computing, so there is a higher demand for skills.”
In a nutshell, the problem is that we have more demand for skills than we are currently able to supply for. 72 percent of large companies and nearly half (49 percent of SMBs have experienced the ‘skills gap,’ with the problem becoming even more acute when it comes to specialist skills.
Karen Bradley, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, was on hand to drive home the point, talking about “the importance of increasing digital skills here in Britain” as 12.6 million adults lack the basic digital skills needed to function effectively in today’s digital economy.
“Given the level of change and the pace of change, we do not today have enough people with the digital skills that we need for the future, so it is incredibly that we make sure we upskill people now, ready for those developments in the future,” she said.
But Jackson and AWS believe it’s time to think about the issue in a different way, as an opportunity rather than a problem: “We think there is actually a digital skills opportunity to take those people that are currently being left behind by the digital economy and to give them the skills that they need to restart their careers and that Britain needs to get ahead.”
And Bradley echoed this sentiment, saying: “We do need to see this as an opportunity. This is an opportunity for people from all parts of the country and from all walks of life, to retrain so that they can be part of a series of professions that have incredibly strong career prospects.”
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