Access to skills is a major headache
It is no surprise that the majority of tech companies see a challenge ahead in 2018 in terms of sourcing skilled and experienced labour. So why do we have this talent squeeze and what can be done?
Just over a third of tech companies blame the UK education system for failing to teach or prioritise STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects well enough. This is despite a sustained government policy drive to increase STEM skills and take-up of STEM subjects at higher levels in schools, colleges and universities. It is impossible to do enough. Nevertheless, many tech businesses want policymakers to do more.
Among other tech companies, opinions are relatively evenly split on where the problem – and the solution – lies. For example, 17% think more needs to be done to attract relevant talent to the UK from overseas and 15% think the challenge is a regional one (25% of respondents headquartered outside London and the South East).
Could the tech industry itself do more? 13% of respondents think so, in terms of offering more training and career opportunities.
There is clearly no single solution to the tech talent challenge and no one right way to develop knowledge and skills. Government and industry both need to keep banging the drum for more focus on and investment in relevant skills development – to increase quality and quantity. Education and training of all forms needs to play a part – in schools, colleges, universities and the workplace, and including NVQs and apprenticeships. A policy that reinstates the two-year post-study work visa could help attract international talent, particularly if it was offered for postgraduates in STEM subjects.
“We employ citizens from all over the world, and a lot of Europeans in particular. So that – accessing international talent – is something we are focused on.”
Adrian Watson, CFO, Lendable
Outlook #6: The government’s STEM agenda will (finally) bear fruit
Government policy continues to focus on STEM skills – and the results could finally start to pay off. A £67m maths and physics teacher supply package has begun to attract teachers back into the workforce to counteract supply shortages. In addition, from 2019 the Government will roll out the £500m a year “T-level” vocational training programme, replacing 13,000 technical qualifications with just 15 “routes”. These will cover areas such as digital, engineering and manufacturing and 16- to 19-year-olds who take the training will be able to get student loans.