Taking an international approach to tackling the UK skills gap

It is no secret the UK’s IT talent pool is too shallow; and that this is having a negative impact upon British businesses’ ability to drive innovation and growth through digital technologies. According to the Tech Partnership, the UK’s leading IT industry body, employment opportunities in Britain’s IT sector are set to grow at almost twice the UK average employment rate between now and 2020. This would ordinarily be extremely positive for the UK IT industry but, as things stand, there simply isn’t an adequate supply of talent to cope with this increased demand.

In fact, the Social Market Foundation has predicted that the UK faces a shortfall in domestic supply of around 40,000 graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) per year. That’s a major skills gap and something the IT industry needs to work to address, in partnership with the UK government and education system, if it is to continue to grow and thrive in the UK.

Closing the gap through collaboration

At Tata Consultancy Services, we believe that a greater emphasis on IT and digital skills is something the UK must embed at every level if it is to develop a workforce with the skills needed to succeed in the global digital economy. We have recently announced a new partnership with the British Council to help encourage the best graduates to consider a career in IT. Between 2016 and 2020, this partnership will create 1,000 roles for British graduates, giving them the opportunity to train and work in India for a year and learn the digital skills that UK business badly needs.

Announced as part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s UK visit, our British Council partnership aims to address the UK’s digital skills shortage by using TCS’ knowledge and expertise to help foster the next generation of digital talent in the UK.

Designed to give graduates the skills and experience they will need for a long-term career in technology, the programme will be split into four streams: software development, global consulting, business process management or human resources. Successful applicants will receive training in the technical and commercial skills needed for a career in these disciplines, as well as participating in client projects.

Investing in digital skills will deliver ROI

Developing strong digital skills will be critical to helping the UK prosper and compete in the global economy in the years ahead. But, of course, this is also important to TCS as a business. The success of our business – and our clients’ businesses – will undoubtedly depend on access to best-in-class digital skills. Therefore, by helping to develop the next generation of digital skills within the UK, we are laying down the foundations necessary for our business to continue to grow, both here in the UK and globally.

TCS’ partnership with the British Council is just the latest in a number of digital skills initiatives that we are investing in across the UK. As part of our IT Futures programme, we are already working with UK schools, universities and the not-for-profit sector to help encourage young people to pursue a career in IT.

For instance, we work closely with schools across the country to provide workshops teaching STEM skills to children aged 11 and up and have partnered with TeachFirst to support high quality ICT teachers in schools serving low-income communities.

We also encourage our staff to act as STEM Ambassadors – going into schools to share their skills and act as role models to these young people – and we run a number of competitions for children and young people both in the UK and globally, including CodeVita which sees more than 49,000 teams of students competing globally.

We believe that it is critical for IT businesses to work alongside education to help excite young people and give them an insight into the potential career opportunities that exist within IT. Since its inception in 2013, our IT Futures programme has reached over 23,000 young people in the UK and we are currently working on the next phase of the initiative, which we hope will have an even greater impact.

British graduates must see themselves as tech creators

In many ways it is surprising that the UK is lacking in digital skills. Any visit to a school or university will show you that young people in the UK have a real love of, and passion for, technology.

However, often this enthusiasm does not lead to a connection with how this technology is made. We hope that through our partnership with the British Council and our ongoing IT Futures programme we can help address this by highlighting the potential benefits of a career in IT and encouraging young people in the UK to learn the skills they need to shape the digital worlds they inhabit.

Shankar Narayanan, Country Head, UK & Ireland, Tata Consultancy Services

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