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Unlocking the UK’s own Silicon Valley

Last month, the Chancellor set out his vision for prosperity in the UK, noting his ambition to turn the UK into “the world’s next Silicon Valley”. He celebrated the UK’s “world beating” fintech sector, praising UK unicorns Monzo and Revolut.

The Chancellor is right, the UK does have an opportunity to become a world leader in technology, especially in the field of data science. It is a key growth area – both economically and in terms of appealing to talent wanting to work within the industry.

Already a lucrative driver of economic growth, the UK tech industry reached the $1 trillion in value milestone last year, joining an elite club with China and the US. However, the UK can unlock even more value by learning the lessons of Silicon Valley.

The reason the Valley thrived was because it had access to the two most essential ingredients – talent and capital. Without these ingredients ambition falls short.

The good news is the money is certainly there. The UK retained the crown in Europe for tech funding and continues to beat previous records. There are now nearly 1,200 impact tech companies in the UK which raised £3.12 billion in funding last year, ahead of 2021’s record £3 billion.

Unfortunately, the UK is falling short on nurturing talent. Recent government figures show that the UK faces a data skills shortage, with around 234,000 roles requiring data skills. To tackle this worrying deficit, UK industry and education must continue to support and develop digital skills in schools and higher education, encouraging a diverse set of candidates for a modern tech economy.

Government and industry have a role to play here, to continue to foster a high skilled economy and ensure that capital continues to flow into data driven companies that can do everything better and faster than ever. Experian research showed that 88% of organisations believed data and technology allowed them to keep up with understanding their customers’ rapidly changing needs during the pandemic.

The good news is that our own research among recent graduates in September 2021, found that over half (53%) are now considering a career in a data led roles within their chosen industry. Furthermore, more than a quarter (29%) were considering roles in data analysis, and one in five students (21%) were thinking about a career in data science. These results provide an encouraging forecast for closing the data skills gap.

Misperceptions about what’s required could be a significant barrier. We found that over two thirds of (68%) recent graduates wrongly believe they needed STEM qualifications to work in the data and tech sector. Almost three quarters (72%) also believed 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.

What’s required is a joined-up approach from industry and government to work together and put existing ideas into practice and to think of new ways to tackle the underlining talent issue. Finding an answer could build an ambitious future for the UK’s very own Silicon Valley, while providing a rewarding career for many.

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Comments: (1)

Steven Hatton
Steven Hatton - Trusek Ltd - Amersham 09 February, 2023, 10:47Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Last month, the Chancellor set out his vision for prosperity in the UK, noting his ambition to turn the UK into “the world’s next Silicon Valley”. He celebrated the UK’s “world beating” fintech sector, praising UK unicorns Monzo and Revolut.

While at the same time announcing the withdrawal of funding of Tech Nation?

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