The “Digital Skills Gap” has become a hot button issue in recent years. The term refers to a lack of basic IT skills among the UK workforce. It also encompasses a general lack of technical professionals. This article focuses on defining why the shortage exists, how it is hindering the growth of the UK economy and what the possible solutions are.
The digital skill gap is created when the requirements for technical professionals outstrips the supply of suitable candidates. With an increased focus on digitalisation across all companies, the demand for tech employees is ever increasing. It means the pool of skilled and qualified talent is far smaller than the demand.
It is widely accepted that technology plays a vital role in the UK’s economic recovery especially post COVID. Therefore tackling the digital skill gap feels more important now than ever before.
Unfortunately, however, despite work by the UK Government and industry leaders to highlight the potential to stunt economic growth, there is no immediate solution to the problem.
Why is there a shortage of tech professionals?
In the wider context, one reason for the digital skill gap is a lack of young people studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in school. There are not enough graduates with appropriate digital skills entering the job market following education. This is just one reason for the lack of technical professionals,
Another is a lack of opportunities for employees to skill up and retrain. Many people think that employees in the current workforce have the capability to fill some of the digital gaps if the opportunity to re-skill was available to them.
This is not a new or pandemic related issue for the UK. As far back as 2015, the Government highlighted this as a potential problem for economic growth. However, there is no doubt that the pandemic, coupled with the UK leaving the EU, has limited the talent pool further and exacerbated the issue of this developing crisis.
As alluded to earlier in the introduction, perhaps the most problematic reason for the current skills crisis is not education or workplace training. It is more the seismic shift that has taken place in the business world over the last two years.
The global pandemic has also accelerated the rate of digitalisation. Even companies with digital transformation plans before COVID have felt mounting pressure to deliver those plans faster.
It is important to note that the keyword here is “global’. This is not a UK centric problem, with organisations the world over struggling to fill tech positions.
How serious is the shortage of technology professionals?
According to the Open University’s ”Bridging the Digital Divide” report published in 2019, employers expect that 37% of the job roles in the workplace are likely to alter significantly within the next five years due to digital disruption. If this plays out, as many as 12 Million employees could be affected.
Furthermore, a study by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in the same year found that two-thirds of British companies (67%) are struggling to fill digital roles. It states that the UK’s lack of qualified digital professionals loses the country over £63 billion per year. It also suggests that at least £130 billion would need to be spent on adult education services to help bridge the technical skill gap in the next 5-10 years.
These reports are just two examples of the studies and research carried out about the skill gap problem. They paint a pretty bleak picture of the immediate problem affecting businesses right now and what their immediate consequences are. Increasing automation and the rise of AI and machine learning are transforming workplaces. However, along with this, the digital skill gap is becoming increasingly prominent.
The tech skills shortage in the UK is a real and pressing issue. Tech skills are in high demand across the board. Commenting on his experience, Andy Peddar, co-founder and CEO of development start-up Deazy says he experienced, ‘a lot of frustration trying to launch a previous start up… and this start-up was not a failure because of anything we did but because of our technology partners.’
Andy explains that this is not a unique problem but a much more widespread issue. He says, ‘I noticed, it wasn’t just start-ups that struggle with this, so I started Deazy so no one had to struggle with that same problem.’
Is hiring remote developers the immediate solution?
Governments and businesses the world over are wrestling with the digital skills gap. So what can a business do right now to resolve its most pressing skills gap?
The digital skill gap is an increasingly pressing issue for businesses trying to find the right people and teams to enable their digitisation. Due to this pressure, a lack of technical talent is hindering the growth of many businesses in the UK.
However, like many modern problems, there are modern solutions. Companies like Deazy are creating new models for resourcing technical talent with their limitless ecosystem of vetted and certified developers. Aside from giving businesses access to technical talent when and where they need them, solutions like the one offered by Deazy give extra benefits of flexibility, a variety of engagement models, and often even cheaper project costs.
In doing so, Deazy can unblock the delivery of product roadmaps or digital transformation agendas. It enables companies to make the most of their market opportunity and deliver growth whilst nurturing in-house talent and graduates to invest in long term technical upskilling in the UK.
The Solution to the tech skills gap
Beyond hiring remote developers, avoiding the digital skill gap’s economic impact is important.
Businesses have found success in bridging the digital skill gap in the short term. They have hired contractors and advertised for staff through professional social networks. From a recruitment perspective, agencies can be used to widen the pool of potential employees beyond internal or local hiring. However, none of these solutions deals with the underlying problem.
One of the ways to address the problem is to increase staff opportunities for training, especially for people lacking digital skills.
Upskilling those already knowledgeable about the companies within a sector and wider industry will help tackle the skill gap problem significantly. However, for many companies, the reality is that there isn’t enough budget for training and upskilling.
Regarding longer-term solutions, governments, organisations, and businesses are encouraging more education in appropriate subjects to ensure students are equipped with the right tools for the future, more digitised workplace.
In the UK, there is also an increasing pressure (especially post Brexit) to make it easier for qualified immigrant workers to have permanent residency or the right to work in the country. This is an especially pressing issue in the UK because of the long-standing reliance on immigrant workers and outsourcing overseas for technology-based roles.
The Deazy Solution
For many organisations, the best way to address their in-house skill gap is to hire remote nearshore developers. Working with remote developers through a company like Deazy allows you to access fully vetted, high-quality talent who can help bridge gaps in your core in-house team.
Using a dedicated service for team augmentation gives you access to nearshore talent without a laborious search. It means companies can get access to the right skills when and where they need them without paying for skills that are not a permanent requirement.
Deazy’s mission is to ‘make development easy’ by creating a limitless ecosystem of skilled and vetted developers over a large range of tech stacks.
Unlike many development agencies and freelance websites, Deazy knows that development is not a one-size-fits-all problem. Team Deazy works hard to ensure each client is matched with the perfect team. Supercharged by Deazy’s unique matching algorithm, clients can be intelligently matched, brief a team and prepare for kick-off in as little as two weeks.
Deazy’s expert delivery team has decades of experience across dozens of sectors, meaning you can be assured that your project will run smoothly every step of the way.
To resolve the global skills gap and ensure that the UK’s economic growth is not impacted long term, many different institutions will need to work together to chip away at the problem. From better education in schools to more opportunities for upskilling funded both by private businesses and the government, the skills gap needs to become the focus of a number of different areas of society.
Furthermore, in the short team, nearshore teams can help bridge gaps and transfer knowledge from talented 3rd party devs to core in-house teams.
By working together and taking a collaborative approach, we can create a workforce that is skilled and ready for the future.
Developer marketplace Deazy connects enterprises, VC backed scale-ups and Europe’s biggest agencies with high-quality development teams, handpicked to provide broad technical expertise and greater capacity. Deazy’s limitless ecosystem of pre-vetted developers and experienced in-house delivery team ensures intelligently matched developers when you need them, to flexibly deliver your build across tech stacks.