As the global skills gap continues to grow, the effects are being felt by businesses worldwide, with as many as 43% of global businesses reporting existing skills gaps. Here in the UK, findings from a recent survey found that 76% of firms think a lack of digital skills would hit their profitability and ‘fewer than half believe young people are leaving full-time education with sufficient advanced digital skills’. This indicates that there’s still a long way to go until supply meets demand, meaning that individuals with digital skills are highly sought after in the job market today.
To give an indication of the scale of the problem, official UK government data shows that while ‘almost half of businesses (48%) are recruiting for roles that require hard data skills, under half (46%) have struggled to recruit for these roles over the last 2 years’. So, why is this the case?
Why does the UK skills gap exist?
A combination of factors have contributed to the digital skills gap in the UK, namely limited access to training, lack of uptake and/or interest in ICT or data-related subjects and the often eye-watering costs of providing adequate training.
Interestingly, there’s also a disconnect between the expectations of employees and employers, with ‘70% of young people expecting employers to invest in teaching them digital skills on the job, but only half of the employers [...] able to provide that training’.
What’s more, there are pronounced disparities when it comes to location, and even gender. The digital skills gap in London is much smaller with both the highest levels of demand for and supply of digital skills, leaving the rest of the country falling behind.
When it comes to gender, there is a wider issue which begins at a much earlier age.
Females account for:
- 22% of GCSE entrants in IT subjects
- 17% of A Level entrants in IT subjects
- 23% of apprenticeship starts in ICT
- 16% of undergraduate starts in computer science.
This highlights the importance of Women in Tech initiatives that celebrate female figures in the technology sector and inspire future generations to pursue a career in STEM subjects.
Partnering with techUK Diversity and Skills Council and hosting workshops and events with our university partnerships (e.g. digital upskilling bootcamps for women), are just some of the ways that FDM has sought to encourage more women to join the tech space.
You can read more about how FDM is striving to improve gender parity in the workplace here.
What are the most in-demand skills?
According to a recent government survey, the most in-demand skills in the UK overall include: IT, data communication skills, database management, communication and project management.
At a more granular level, the most critical skills for medium sized businesses were named as adaptability and communication, while in small companies, ‘an analytical mindset’ was the most in-demand skill.
While the majority of in-demand skills are classified as hard skills, it’s interesting to note that soft skills such as communication were also highly sought after. Of the companies surveyed by the government, ‘around a quarter said that graduates who work with data need to develop their leadership (26%) and communication (23%) skills’, which highlights the importance of soft skills, particularly in senior positions.
Interestingly, the most in-demand skills in the UK are reflected on a global scale, with 43% of firms naming data analytics as a business area with the greatest need to fill potential skills gaps and 26% naming IT, mobile and web design as a critical area for improvement.
How can companies identify their skills gap?
Before investing in training or hiring in new bodies, it’s critical that businesses spend time assessing what their skills gap actually looks like. As an organisation, you may think you know what skills you need to procure, but without thorough interrogation and analysis into future requirements you’re unlikely to have the full picture. We recommend the following approach:
- Conduct an audit of current performance against your business objectives
Auditing your current performance against business targets can help you to understand whether you are on track to meet your objectives in the time frame you have set. If the answer is no, it’s a good opportunity to ask why and evaluate what the biggest barriers are that are stopping you from achieving them. It may be down to a lack of strategic focus or a shortage of technical or operational skills
- Define future goals and the skills you require to achieve them
What does the long term vision look like for your organisation? You may have the skills you need to meet your objectives in the short term, but not necessarily to drive success for the next 2-3 years.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that businesses need to be resilient and agile to succeed. It has highlighted the importance of strategic workforce planning, risk management and efficient use of technology for businesses.
This is reflected in a recent report by LinkedIn, that found that resilience is the top priority skill across US, Canada, France, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, while digital fluency is the #1 priority skill in Germany, Southeast Asia, and India. Ratify your future objectives and assess against your organisation’s current skill set to understand what your organisation’s priority skills should be.
- Analyse future industry trends to establish how you will keep pace and the skills you need to do so
While it’s not always possible to know what’s around the corner, there are certain trends that you can prepare for. Keeping your finger on the pulse can help your organisation to identify emerging trends or patterns in consumer demand or behaviour that may present new business opportunities. This can, in turn, inform future business decisions on what skills you need to develop within your organisation that would allow it to keep pace with competitors or develop a unique competitive advantage.
- Organise panel discussions with stakeholders across the whole organisation
Engage stakeholders from across your organisation in panel discussions to find out first hand what the biggest challenges are that they face. Understanding these barriers to success can help you to spot patterns and commonalities across the business, and determine the critical areas where a skills deficit exists.
- Speak to employees to understand their training needs
One of the most important and effective ways to understand your company's skills gap is to ask your employees about the areas they want to improve in and where they feel extra training would be most beneficial. Not only should this help to confirm the skills that you have already identified, but it can potentially highlight new areas to focus on as part of your upskilling or reskilling programme.
How can organisations address their company skills gap?
Once you’ve identified your company skills gap, there are a number of different methods you can adopt to tackle the problem. The right solution for your business will depend on various factors, including size, budget and the nature of the skills required.
- Introduce an upskilling programme
Collaborate with your L&D teams to build training programmes that hone in on the specific skills you want to develop within the company. For each programme, set specific, measurable and time-bound objectives so you can track the effectiveness of the training and report to senior stakeholders.
Upskilling can be a cost-effective alternative to mass hiring and can help to boost employee engagement and job satisfaction. Read more about the benefits of upskilling your employees here.
- Review and adapt your recruitment processes
Overhauling your recruitment process can help to open up an entire new talent pool and attract exceptional candidates with the skills you need. Consider revisiting your job descriptions to ensure they are as inclusive as possible (e.g. void of any gendered, age-related words or any language that could be interpreted as having connotations of bias, excess jargon or unnecessary ‘must haves) and review where you place your advertisements.
If your company tends to attract candidates with very similar backgrounds and similar skill sets, it’s time to expand your reach. Explore alternative recruiters, job boards and how you promote your available roles; this will help to attract a more diverse pool of candidates. Learn more about how to hire diverse talent here.
- Partner with FDM to help build your talent pipeline
FDM partners with companies to build a robust pipeline of talent that directly addresses their skills gap, bringing in talented individuals to enhance organisations’ existing teams. FDM enables businesses to bring in individuals with relevant skills quickly, and on a flexible basis to help them achieve both short and long term objectives.
Find out more about the services we offer.