IBM chief says better tech training 'a must'

The head of IBM in the UK is urging government, industry and academia to work together to improve training for recruits and existing staff so that Europe's chronic shortage of tech skills can be overcome.

tech training
Sreeram Visvanathan, chief executive of IBM UK and Ireland, says that research across Europe by the tech corporation, which has operations in more than 170 nations, found that offering education and skills training was now seen as a top priority for many companies looking to improve AI recruitment.

Writing on the techUK website, Mr Visvanathan says the research found almost 70 per cent of tech employees and job-seekers believed that potential recruits lacked the skills necessary for a career in AI.

"The impact of this deficit has the potential to stifle digital innovation and hold back economic growth," he warns.

The IBM report, ‘Addressing the AI Skills Gap in Europe’, concluded that, while technical capabilities were vital for a career in the sector, problem solving was considered the most critical soft skill needed for tech roles.

However, almost a quarter of tech recruiters recorded difficulties in  finding job applicants with this aptitude, along with shortfalls in critical and strategic thinking.

Mr Visvanathan says the report showed that offering education and skills training had become a top priority for many companies and that IBM had already taken "proactive steps" to upskill existing employees and job applicants.

He points to the launch of the IBM SkillsBuild programme, which is free to participants and has brought together two other, skills-based learning schemes: the Open P-TECH and SkillsBuild.

"Through the programme, students, educators, job-seekers, and the organisations that support them have access to free digital learning, resources, and support focused on the core technology and workplace skills needed to succeed in jobs," says Mr Visvanathan.

But he adds that a great deal remains to be done to solve the skills gap. "What’s required now is for industry, government and academia to work together to put existing ideas into practice and to think of new ways to solve the challenge.

"At the start of the year, the DCMS (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Department) announced £23 million of government funding to create 2,000 scholarships in AI and data science in England.

"The new scholarships from this funding will ensure more people can build successful careers in AI, create and develop new and bigger businesses, and will improve the diversity of this growing and innovative sector.

"I hope to see further investment and programs such as ours with SkillsBuild as key drivers in change. Finding solutions and initiatives such as these will ensure we are providing a significant boost for the UK while providing a rewarding career for many."
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