Most UK firms 'looking abroad for tech talent'

The shortage of indigenous digital skills in the UK has become so acute that four-fifths of UK businesses in a new survey say they will need to recruit overseas talent in the coming 12 months.

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The research by online edtech company FourthRev, which operates across Australia, the US and UK, involved more than 100 HR, talent acquisition and learning & development executives from a wide range of sectors including finance, IT, manufacturing, media, consulting, government, utilities and retail."As the UK government looks to rebound and seek out ways to drive the post-pandemic economic recovery, the message from business leaders is clear: more needs to be done to close the digital economy skills gap," said FourthRev.The survey found that 81% of respondents felt they would need to recruit talent from overseas within the next year to deliver on key growth objectives. And just over half accepted they would have would pay over the odds to acquire the digital skills they needed.Without access to the right quality and quantity of talent, 60% of businesses said they feared they might miss out on key strategic deliverables over the next five years.Across all sectors, more than half reported difficulties sourcing suitable candidates for entry-level digital economy roles, while data analytics, cybersecurity and programming skills were the top skills identified as a priority over the next 12 months.“Covid-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of organisations in the UK, with many adopting new technologies to adapt to and bounce back from the pandemic," said Jack Hylands, FourthRev founder."This has made digital skills even more highly valued, but our employer poll shows businesses simply aren’t able to access the skills they require."While there are a number of causes involved here, the research highlighted a key contributing factor being a lack of confidence that the education sector can support the development of applied digital skills and highly impactful learning experiences aligned to the future of work."Mr Hylands said that what was needed was a "hybrid solution" that would allow higher education and industry to work together to overcome the home-grown shortage of tech skills."Employers clearly value a combination of the two, so by merging their unique strengths there is significant potential to deliver up-to-date and industry-relevant education for learners across all demographics, no matter if you are an undergraduate or currently in a non-digital role looking to upskill," he said."As any recovery from the current crisis hinges on the development of digital capabilities across the workforce, rethinking the relationship between university and industry must be made a priority.”The research found 88% on businesses expressed a lack of confidence in the existing structures of the education sector to deliver the graduates and upskilling provisions that are needed in the post-pandemic, digital economy.Two-thirds of respondents said they favoured the hybrid approach, combining academic qualifications with a practical work portfolio.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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