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Skill gap putting UK's tech future on the line

The UK has become a ‘hotbed of start-ups’, and a home for big tech business, talent and digital innovation. But if it wants to maintain this position, and keep pushing forward, it needs to address the burning issue it has with skill gaps.

This is according to a new report by Hired, entitled ‘Mind The Gap’. There are four key elements which are putting UK digital economy’s future on the line, and that is the skill gap, Brexit, global competitiveness, and homegrown talent.

Skill gap

Data, security, Python, Ruby, user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) is where the UK is at its weakest. According to the report, we should “take stock and invest in up-skilling to ensure we are equipped for the future.”

This supply and demand is under further pressure with the UK’s referendum on leaving the European Union. The UK has been relying heavily on attracting global talent to supplement for the lack of homegrown one. Leaving the EU will only make things that more difficult.

“User experience is one of the key drivers for success today. Having talented developers that can combine both technical skill with design is critical in delivering this, and is vital for the future success of any business,” says Candace Lee, Talent Acquisition Lead, Blockchain.

Global competitiveness

The third key element is global competitiveness. The report says average salaries for tech workers in London are ‘substantially lower’ than those living in San Francisco or New York. Unless a balance is struck, a brain drain is possible.

The cause of this salary discrepancy is because software development is a relatively new career, and as such wage expectations aren’t well-established. The average starting salary for a developer is £32,500 – a figure between 7-25 per cent higher than their graduate peers according to statistics from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, Office for National Statistics and the British Medical Association.

“Hired’s ‘Mind the Gap’ report brings the issue of the skills gap to the fore and highlights the need for a new and innovative approach in the UK to growing our skills base. We need to look to our culture, and shift to a model of lifelong learning. We must commit to challenging our employees and peers to learn new skills, or to update their current set, to ensure we remain ahead of the curve,” said Jacqueline de Rojas, TechUK’s President.

And finally, the pipeline of homegrown talent is ‘worryingly weak’. Three quarters (74 per cent) of workers do have a degree, but the number of UK students graduating with computer science qualification has been on a decline for the past 14 years.

“With a large number of developers now self-taught, employers must consider passion and commitment alongside formal qualifications,” the report says.

Looking forward

The UK has come a long way in the past decade, the report says, becoming a tech powerhouse and a global contender. However, there are serious threats to this position, mostly fuelled by the skill gap and the aftermath of Brexit. In important areas, such as user interface or user experience, data and security, we don’t have enough homegrown talent, and talent from abroad is becoming increasingly harder to come by.

“If the UK is to maintain its position as a digital leader, the members of the UK’s tech ecosystem – including start-ups and larger businesses, schools and universities, local and national government – need to address the skills gap that’s starting to open up.”

Image source: Shutterstock/Kirill Wright

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.