Shortage of IT skills ‘holding back UK productivity’

Productivity in UK companies is being restricted by a dire shortage of digital skills in their workforces, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

A survey of almost 1,500 businesses across the country has found three-quarters reported that, to varying degrees, they were facing a shortage of the tech skills they needed; 52 per cent said the shortage was ‘slight’; 21 per cent said it was ‘significant’; and 3 per cent reported a ‘critical’ shortfall.Some 84 per cent of those surveyed regarded IT skills as more important to their business than they were two years ago, with just over half considering them significantly more important.

Digital skills key for productivity

Adam Marshall, director-general of the BCC, said, “The evidence is clear: better digital skills make firms more productive, and a lack of digital skills holds them back.“Businesses themselves need to do a lot more to tackle the digital skills shortages they face, and their leaders need to be alive to the fact that a failure to tackle this issue will have an impact on their bottom line. Too many firms are stuck in an unproductive cycle, where the failure to take action has serious consequences.“Training providers can give firms a helping hand, by engaging with companies on their digital needs and helping them to free up resources for growth. Government must help as well, by recognising that some of the high-level digital skills businesses need will come from overseas so a pragmatic immigration system needs to be in place to provide firms with access to the workers required to fill the gaps.”
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Key findings

  • The skills most important to companies were basic computer skills (72 per cent); communicating and connecting through digital channels (71 per cent); and management of digital information (69 per cent)
  • Skills shortages were having adverse effects on many firms, including: increasing workload on existing staff (52 per cent); higher operating costs (29 per cent); and causing difficulties in meeting customer requirements (28 per cent)
  • Businesses regarded a lack of time for staff training (41 per cent); difficulty in identifying appropriate training (32 per cent); and the high cost of training (25 per cent) as the leading barriers to rectifying these shortages.
The BCC surveyed 1,465 business people from all regions of the UK online in January to understand how businesses rate the overall reliability of their broadband connections, and how a more reliable connection could help their businesses. Of the businesses surveyed, 96 per cent were SMEs, 22 per cent operated in the manufacturing sector and 78 per cent were in the services sector.For related news and features, visit our Enterprise section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre