How to prevent the pinch of the digital skills gap

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The skills shortage in the Digital sector has been forecasted by various business moguls and, as we swiftly approach 2020, we’re beginning to feel the pinch of the reality of this skills gap.

The heart of digital integration is efficiency

Of course, at the heart of all this digital integration is efficiency, which leads to cost reduction, and over 50% of executives have reported that saving money is one of the top three priorities for integrating their digital strategies. This is significant, as businesses are being forced to operate leaner and more efficiently to remain competitive.

In order to achieve their goals, business leaders are seeking to ‘grow their own’ talent pools and are openly voicing their concerns about the skills graduates are leaving universities with. Only 18% of hiring managers believe that graduates have the right digital skills for their business. The issue being that digital skills taught today are no longer relevant by the time the graduates are stepping into their first digital roles. Computer Science graduates are, therefore, not able to attain the roles they aspire to and employers are struggling to find the right people with the right skills to fill their vacancies. Ultimately, this leads to a gulf between demand and supply in the human resources the business needs to succeed in achieving its digital ambitions and is driving up the salaries for those who have the appropriate skills.

Developing the appropriate skills is vital

So what are the appropriate skills? According to Deliotte’s report, there has been a 21% increase in corporate investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI), up from 22% in 2017 to 41% in 2018. Businesses are, in effect, doubling their investment in AI in just one year, yet the skills to implement their ambitions are lacking. In addition to AI, the two most-invested-in skills are Automation and Blockchain, as robotics, coding and digital currency become more and more mainstream.

"Businesses are, in effect, doubling their investment in AI in just one year, yet the skills to implement their ambitions are lacking."

The message to convey, to our new digital graduates, is that not all degrees or qualifications in digital are the same. Those taking BTEC qualifications in IT or Computing should review the syllabus they’re learning and ensure it covers the skills they believe will lead them to fulfil the needs of the digital roles of tomorrow.

But the onus is equally on training providers and universities, who should review their delivery plans to ensure the classroom is directly engaged with employers who can share working practices and describe how their businesses harness digital innovations that are occurring in the sector.

Atif Khan is the Sector Manager for Digital and IT BTECs and Apprenticeships at Pearson. He's worked in vocational education for 20 years and, in recent years, has specialised in the digital sector, particularly in understanding where the existing tech industry is heading. Before joining Pearson, Atif worked as a Digital Skills and Talent Management Consultant, working with the biggest tech employers in the UK. His clients included Cisco, Microsoft, Google, Metro Bank, SAP, Lloyds and other multinational organisations.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in these blogs belong solely to their authors, and are not necessarily those of Pearson.

Atif Khan