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Three quarters of IT employers claim their company has a digital skills gap

Digital skills
(Image credit: Getty Images)

IT employers are facing a skills crisis according to new findings from the Open University (OU), with up to 69 percent struggling to recruit staff with adequate digital skills.

Companies are also battling to upskill their existing staff, with 62 percent of employers warning that they’re running into issues with current employees.

Business owners are attempting to combat the crisis and taking preventative measures by putting plans in place to upskill the staff they do have, with bosses expecting to take the next couple of years to complete the process. 

The OU questioned 425 senior IT decision makers based in England with over 20-plus employees for its survey. The polling process took a deep dive into the digital skills gap, homing in on the likes of roles that were difficult to fill and what plans they were putting in place to handle the problem areas.

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Ongoing skills crisis

Results showed conclusively that employers are battling an ongoing digital skills dilemma, with 77 percent stating they have gaps in their productivity chain. A wider boost for acquiring, or beefing up existing digital skills was also widely acknowledged as being beneficial for easing the problem.

Some 48 percent of those questioned felt that recruiting new staff and taking time to upskill existing employees would ultimately add value to their business by helping to drive profitability. Similarly, 46 percent felt that it would boost productivity within their business and 45 percent reckoned it would make their company more competitive.

In a nod towards cost saving, some 48 percent of those surveyed felt a move towards upskilling their existing staff members would help reduce the cost of making new hires.

Business owners also felt that higher education courses could help provide a solution to many issues surrounding the digital skills shortage. A sizeable 84 percent said they thought the options of Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) along with apprenticeships would help ease the crisis somewhat.

Digital bootcamps is another idea that 72 percent of those surveyed thought would be a sensible way of plugging the skills gaps. Key skills shortages cited by many included cybersecurity (42 percent), software development (36 percent) and network engineering (24 percent).

At the same time, some 57 percent of employers thought their organisations weren’t investing enough in digital skills to realistically address the severity of the problem.

Jacky Hinton, Director of Apprenticeships and HTQs at The Open University commented, “As organisations continue to rely more and more on digital capability, this survey shows that it can be challenging to recruit staff into digital roles and keep existing employees up to date with relevant digital skills. Higher Technical Qualifications are a new route to provide the skills needed to close some of these critical gaps in organisations. 

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Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.