The government’s Institute of Coding could help create a truly digital workforce

Written by James Milligan on 6 February 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

James Milligan of Hays Digital Technology welcomes PM Theresa May’s investments in closing the technology skills gap

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The prime minister’s digital investment announcement at Davos is just one of the recent initiatives shining a much-needed spotlight on digital skills in the UK. 

The plans include a new Institute of Coding, which will be a consortium of more than 60 universities, businesses and industry experts – and I was particularly pleased to hear of the robust sounding strategy which aims to support digital skills investment from all angles. 

In co-ordinating education, businesses, and industry experts, the investment will hopefully allow for direct communication between all three areas, something that has previously been disconnected. For example, if businesses aren’t consistently communicating what skills they are struggling to recruit for, or what training their workforce needs, the government will struggle to provide the right help. 

The investment, which is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, comes at a pertinent time, as skills shortages continue to plague the majority of sectors across the UK. 

For some areas, there are particularly attractive opportunities and salaries for candidates in the market. There’s been significant salary increases – upwards of 6% this year, according to Hays figures – for roles such as Java developers and analyst programmers, demonstrating the market worth these skills have. With salaries in the industry being driven upwards by increasing demand for technological skills, fierce competition for talent and a shrinking candidate market, organisations are doing their best to set themselves apart as an employer of choice, in order to attract and retain the best candidates. 


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Whilst there are talented digital specialists available, the pipeline of talent simply isn’t broad enough to support current business needs. Developing the Institute of Coding will hopefully pave the way for graduates to be able to learn the right skills – from coding languages, to cybersecurity – as well as employers having a clear input into what will be taught. The initiative offers the ability for the curriculum and framework to be flexible in adapting not only to employer’s needs but, crucially, to the changing technology landscape. 

In being flexible, we can constantly embrace technological change across the UK, giving us a competitive edge for the future. The digital skills gap could cost the UK £63bn per year in lost GDP, according to the Commons Science and Technology Committee. So, our future plans aren’t just supporting our position from a technology perspective, but will provide a much-needed boost for our economy too. 

Additionally, the core themes outlined in the plans address other key issues across the digital sector which will, in turn, support skills gaps. Widening participation, for example, will boost equality and diversity in technology-related education and careers. Technology offers worthwhile and fulfilling careers for men and women alike, and we should work together to drive this message forward to create even more diverse, energetic, and innovative workplace cultures.

I’m optimistic that the plans for an Institute of Coding will act as the backbone to build a diverse and large talent pool that the industry has been crying out for. Businesses need future leaders in technology, and with the right skills in place, we can start to make headway as a truly digital workforce. 

 

About the author

James Milligan is director of Hays Digital Technology. The Hays UK Salary &Recruiting Trends 2018 Guide is available here.

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