Mind the gap! Skills shortages posing problems for technology businesses

24 March 2016

April 2016 is a big month if you’re a member of Squad UK.

After excelling in the finals of the WorldSkills UK Competitions back in late 2015, members of Squad UK came together at Loughborough University in early February for their first official training and development event.

This intense two day programme focussed on assessing and developing the key attributes of each competitor including problem solving, team work and leadership, all of which are key traits of a successful WorldSkills competitor.

Next up, the members of Squad UK undertook further skills training and assessment during February and March.  The technical skills of each competitor were evaluated by UK Experts who are responsible for delivering the technical training programme for each skill.

Finally, members of Squad UK who progress to phase four of the training and development programme for WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 will be announced in April 2016. A momentous moment for those involved, and a great achievement!

WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 takes place from 14 to 19 October, 2017 and is the world’s largest international skills competition. This follows on from WorldSkills Sao Paulo in August 2015, where the UK was listed seventh in the WorldSkills rankings after winning three Gold, four Silver and two Bronze Medals.  

You may be wondering what the point of all this is?

Well, this is to recognise the global threat of a potential deficit in skills in our younger generation.

The Technology sector will be one of the worst affected by this in the near future as it is both global in nature and, stating the obvious, hugely reliant on good human capital and in particular recruiting and retaining the best people.  This is the engine room for the development and delivery of the new products and services of the future.

KPMG recently stated in December 2015 that the sector was closing in on six years of sustained employment growth. This coupled with research findings from tech recruiter Randstad Technologies that nearly half of all tech sector workers plan to retire early - compared to a UK average of 35% - means a supply shortfall needs to be met by the next generation. This, however, is simply not the case with the UK currently failing to deliver the 100,000 new recruits that Intellect, the UK's technology trade association, estimates are needed to enter the market each year. With a large proportion of the tech industry’s senior talent pool potentially exiting the sector by 2020, as the baby boomer generation nears retirement age, this represent a serious shortage of talent threatening to curtail the UKs biggest growth sector.

Another concern for the UK tech sector labour market is the prospect of exiting the EU. Almost half of organisations in the 2015 CIO 100 were actively seeking to recruit technology talent from the EU to support their business and tackle the IT skills shortage. In the 2015 CIO, 58% of CIO's revealed they are finding it difficult to recruit the talent they need to drive transformation, with 47% subsequently looking to Europe to fill the gap.

This, coupled with the younger generation’s view on long term employment, leaves businesses with the challenge of engaging in a different way with their ‘workforces’.  There are many different ways to incentivise rising talent outside the more usual structures and it is critical business leaders incorporate the thinking about this issue in developing their strategies going forward.

As with any opportunities to support strategic change to the business, we are always keen to be involved with discussions with clients or contacts early in the planning; there may be tax reliefs or other financial implications we can discuss or indeed we can direct to the type of arrangements we have described above.

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Jason Mitchell is available for further comment.