London Tech Week is back – the UK’s tech flagship event that brings together some of the brightest minds across the industry to discuss the positive role that data and technology can play in our global economy and for our local communities.
The experience of Covid-19 has demonstrated the great value of data-driven technology. In many respects, we’ve seen a tech driven response to the pandemic, with the deployment of apps, data analytics and data science to help us find solutions and respond
to the biggest challenge humanity has faced in a generation.
The pandemic has also fast-tracked several trends that were already in motion – one of those is the digital transformation of our economy. Online retail sales experienced four years of expected growth in just 12 months, rising from 12% to more than 34% of
total retail spend in 2020 – a level that previous estimates anticipated wouldn’t be reached until the start of 2025.
The digital acceleration has led to a boom in digital skills and job opportunities. And that’s true in our sector, data, too. Every digital business is a data business – so needs people who can help manage, secure, and analyse that data, to make sure it’s
properly governed and kept. That’s why developing data skills will be essential. Our digital economy needs more people with expertise working with data – for example data analysts, data scientists, data engineers and software developers.
But the reality is that the UK doesn’t have enough people with the relevant skills to fill the number of vacancies available to fill. Recent government research showed the extent of the data skills shortage with around 234,000 unfilled roles requiring data
A lack of talent in the field would severely dent the Government’s ambition for the UK to become a world leader in data, as outlined in its National Data Strategy.
Misperceptions about what’s required could be a significant barrier. In our 2021 poll of recent graduates, it found over two thirds of students (68%) wrongly believe you require key STEM qualifications to work in the data and tech sector. Almost three quarters
(72%) also believe that you need specific skills to apply for related jobs.
Clearly, as an industry we need to do more to bridge the skills gap and encourage people from wide range of backgrounds into careers working with data. Diversity of thought is a key ingredient in developing innovation. We need perspectives and experiences
from a variety of backgrounds to really drive success.
Any discussion about digital skills often focuses on what schools and universities are doing, highlighting the need for more data-related subjects to be taught. Whilst this is important, we need to broaden our perspective if we’re to tackle the shortage.
For example, collaboration between organisations and universities can really make a difference. By understanding the needs of the business, more emphasis can be placed on what vocational courses can be offered to not only give students the best chance of
employment post-education but give businesses the right skills that’ll allow them to achieve their strategic goals.
Investing in some of the fantastic initiatives designed to upskill the next generation of talent is also a key element. Initiatives such as Code First Girls who are dedicated to transforming tech by providing the skills, space, and inspiration for women
to become developers and future leaders.
We were thrilled to welcome four Code First Girls graduates into our business recently who provided their coding expertise, and a fresh perspective, to help us progress our important work tackling financial exclusion and helping global communities recover
A lot still needs to be done to close the UK’s data skills gap, but it’s not an impossible task. What’s required is a concerted effort from industry and government to work together and put existing ideas into practice and to think of new ways to tackle the
issue. Finding an answer will provide a significant boost for the UK digital economy, while providing a rewarding career for many.