The skills gap has been well documented. The shortfall of people with the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills required by the digital economy is estimated to be 40,000 and UK employers are struggling to fill 43 per cent of STEM vacancies according to an article in the New Statesman₁. Furthermore, science and tech jobs are predicted to grow twice as fast as other occupations with 142,000₂ new jobs in science, research, engineering and tech anticipated by 2023. The Open University₃ claims that employers are paying a high price to ensure their organisations have the skills required to remain productive, with the shortfall now costing an extra £6.33 billion a year in recruitment fees, inflated salaries, temporary staff and training for workers hired at a lower level than intended.
The shortage in talent could cost the UK economy as much as £141.5 billion of GDP growth, made possible by investment in intelligent technologies over the next ten years, according to consultants, Accenture. Consultants Korn Ferry maintain that the UK is set to miss out on over £307 million in unrealised revenue by 2030 with almost 3 million jobs going unfilled. In the latest British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey, it was reported that 75 per cent of businesses in the manufacturing sector and 71 per cent in the services sector were reporting recruitment difficulties.
The gap in skills places a huge burden on education. Only 7,600 students in England took computing at A level in 2017, less than 10 per cent were female₄. Hardly enough to satisfy the IT industry. In addition, a study by Bidwells₅ compared industry vacancies against undergraduate enrolments in 2017 to uncover which areas have the most significant shortages.
Data: ONS average industry vacancies 2018 and HESA full-time, first-degree university enrolments 2017.
The imbalance between vacancies and enrolments is clearly evident and for students the opportunities are obvious as well.
Hopefully initiatives like the £20 million government funded Institute of Coding₆ will also help tackle the skills shortage. According to a government commissioned report (Shadbolt Review₇), there will be 518,000 additional employees required to fill roles in the digital industry by 2022 – three times the number of computer science graduates produced in the UK in the past ten years.
Education needs to work closely with government, corporates and the technology industry to maximise the opportunities whilst minimising the skills gap.
Sources and Acknowledgements: Accenture, Korn Ferry, Forbes