Britain has seen healthy growth in digital innovation which is increasing the demand for digital workers. But despite young people showing a healthy interest in technology, the skills gap grows ever wider. Therefore, despite steady development, more needs to be done to prevent the UK being derailed from its enviable position as a dominant force in IT.
How Many Digital Workers Does the UK Need?
If the UK is to reach its digital potential and power the digital economy it has promised, it will require the skills of around 2.3 digital workers by 2020. This was the finding of research compiled by the mobile operator O2.
O2 has predicted that there will be approximately 766,000 digital jobs generated in the next five years. The report also found that the north of England is still a long way behind London and the southeast when it comes to implementing technology growth initiatives.
As a result of the digital growth disparity, O2 has launched a Digital Communities scheme in St. Helens, Merseyside. The initiative is designed to encourage young people to look for digital positions and careers outside of London and the south-east.
Ben Dowd, O2’s business director, spoke of the importance of creating digital opportunities in the north, stating:
“It’s promising to see so many jobs will be required to fulfil the UK’s digital potential. But we can’t get complacent – these figures highlight that the economy is nowhere near digital maturity and – worryingly – the opportunities that are being created, are predominantly in the south.”Ben Dowd – Business Director – O2
The scheme will assist local businesses in implementing digital strategies, systems and growth. It will also help people that have digital knowledge and skills to work with local businesses that require digital skills.
Other initiatives are being implemented to help drive digital growth in the north of England. For example, in 2015, the then chancellor, George Osborne, announced a £11million investment in tech incubators in Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, designed to nurture tech start-ups in northern cities. The scheme is part of the wider vision to turn the north-west and the north-east into a “Northern Powerhouse.”
Despite efforts being made to advance digital innovation, the UK is still battling with a shortage of digital skills.
In April 2017, the British Chamber of Commerce published a study which revealed that 75% of businesses in Britain reported shortfalls in digital skills. The report showed how the UK is facing a deficit of around 40,000 people with relevant Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills to cater for the increasing demand of the digital economy.
As the Newstatesman wrote in response to the study:
“Given the ever-increasing importance of digital technologies, the issue needs to be addressed if the UK is to remain competitive and take advantage of the growing digital economy.”New Statesman
With business being progressively more reliant on technological innovation, digital systems, advanced IT infrastructures and digital methods of marketing, it is vital businesses of all sizes and industries are equipped with adequate digital talent to increase productivity and maintain competitiveness.
It is also vital young people are given the opportunity to learn digital skills in order for the UK to reach its digital potential by 2020, not just in London and the south-east but throughout the whole of the UK.
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