Skills shortages UK tech's biggest problem

Accessing the skilled workers they badly need has become by far the greatest problem confronting tech firms in the UK, according to the latest 'Digital Economy Monitor'.

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The Q3 survey by the trade body techUK found that accessing talent over the coming year was regarded as the biggest challenge by 57 per cent of businesses.
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A range of skills-focused measures needed

Other challenges were identified as maintaining firms' current investment and growth plans (45 per cent), and confronting increased staff costs (35 per cent) and energy costs (33 per cent).According to techUK, the new government has an important role to play in assisting the industry."The right balance will be a combination of short-term measures to support businesses cope with rising costs as well as medium to long-term support to boost R&D, digital skills training, and access to overseas talent."

Plotting a course through economic headwinds

Neil Ross, Associate Director of Policy at techUK, said that government must set out a long-term plan in November's Autumn Statement that will enable tech businesses to hire the talent they need and provide support for R&D investment. “The technology sector is resilient and has overcome major challenges such as Brexit and Covid-19. However, recent economic headwinds, rising energy and staff costs as well as longer-term concerns over access to talent are starting to bite," he said. “If supported, the technology sector has a crucial part to play in helping turn around the UK’s economic slowdown and is projected to add £41.5 billion to the UK economy by 2025."

Rebuilding business confidence

The message was reinforced on Thursday when Julian David, techUK CEO, warned new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the negative economic headwinds this year had "knocked confidence" in the nation's tech sector."Our most recent survey of our members shows that over one third of members believe their outlook will worsen over the next 12 months and that tech businesses will particularly struggle when trying to hire new talent and fulfil their existing plans to invest in the UK," he said.Mr David said he believed Mr Sunak shared his belief that the UK tech sector had a crucial role to play in driving economic recovery."We must also seek to determine how the UK can secure our place in a more uncertain and economically competitive world where leadership in science and technology is of strategic importance," Mr David added."This will require the government to continue the work to reform financial markets and the UK’s approach to investment to drive funding into UK tech scale-ups, maintain commitments to invest in research and development and ensure our future of compute, artificial intelligence and quantum strategies can nurture the industries of the future here in the UK."Mr David pledged that the tech sector would work closely with Mr Sunak's government over the coming months "to take on the challenges the country faces and ensure that we play a role in building a better future for people, society, the economy and the planet". 

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