Employers urge ministers to address digital skills gap


The UK’s biggest tech companies have called on the government to take immediate action to address a digital skills shortage that is holding back post-pandemic economic recovery.

Employers including Microsoft, Google and software company Salesforce on Tuesday urged ministers to work more closely with industry to address the digital skills gap, which is costing the UK economy billions of pounds. The calls came in a report from TechUK, a trade body that represents hundreds of UK and multinational tech groups.

The calls come at a critical time for the UK skills sector, with the government promising to increase productivity and participation in lifelong learning while rebuilding the post-Covid economy.

Technation, a platform for employers, estimated in 2020 that there will be 100,000 vacancies each month in the tech industry by this summer. The Employer Skills Survey predicted that 30 percent of skills shortage vacancies were due to low digital skills.

NESTA, a think tank, has found data skills shortages costing the UK economy £ 2 billion a year.

Tech groups said the government’s “Skills for Jobs” plan to support the training of over-16s, released in January, showed it understood the danger of a skills shortage, but needed to go further to encourage people to follow him.

“If we do not take this opportunity to recycle the hardest hit [by the pandemic], we risk depriving them of a good job now – and in the future, ”said Clare Barclay, UK Managing Director of Microsoft and a member of the TechUK task force.

“There are huge opportunities available in digital, but people need the skills to access them,” she added.

Many of the report’s recommendations echo the plans detailed in the government’s January skills white paper.

The report, Fast Forward for Digital Jobs, supports proposals to introduce a right to take out a loan to finance the equivalent of four additional years of education after the age of 18, and to give employers more weight in definition of the content of professional qualifications.

Adam Spearing, Emea Field Technical Director at Salesforce, said there was an “opportunity to go further.”

The report recommends the creation of a digital skills tax credit, potentially modeled on existing reliefs for investment in research and development, which would encourage SMEs to invest in training their workforce. .

He also calls for more flexibility for employers to distribute apprenticeship tax funds – a tax to finance training – to smaller organizations. Loan entitlement, he adds, should be available not only for college and university courses, but also for a wide range of industry-certified providers.

TechUK also urged the government to create a “digital skills toolkit,” an online portal to assess people’s existing skills and indicate training opportunities to address the information gap.

“The challenge for employers and employees is knowing what skills I am learning,” said Spearing. “It allows people to decide.

The Education Ministry said its current offering included access for adults with low digital skills to free training, targeted support for job seekers, and access to free digital lessons.

“We are transforming technical education so that everyone has the opportunity to acquire the skills they need to succeed, and we put employers at the heart of the plans, so that companies have access to highly skilled workers. they need to thrive, ”Gillian Keegan, Minister of Learning and Skills, said.

Fiona Aldridge, policy director at the Learning and Work Institute, a think tank, said it was heartening that big names were engaging with the need for digital skills.

However, she said it might be a “mistake” to introduce too many specific initiatives around particular skills, and said more needed to be done to ensure that existing resources were used and that there were had clear paths of progression.

“Those with fewer qualifications and in ‘low-skilled’ roles were the most likely to have lost their jobs,” she said. “Helping them retrain and move in the economy will require support to develop digital skills (and confidence) from a low level. “

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