|Biggest challenges||% of digital businesses that responded|
|Affordable office space||28%|
|Awareness of tech||28%|
In fact, almost 25% characterised sourcing talent as a ‘major challenge.’ Steps are already being taken to address this shortage and equip the UK’s workforce with the skills needed for roles in the digital tech sector. We suggest 3 areas of focus to further this agenda:
Government reforms of the technical education system will see the creation of a specialist digital route, with employers setting standards and specifying the knowledge, skills and behaviours that individuals will need.
Strong education models include the CyberFirst programme, Ada National College for Digital Skills and Cardiff University’s National Software Academy. Other inspiring initiatives which are successfully equipping young people with the skills of the future include the Exeter Mathematics School, The Studio in Liverpool and École 42 in Paris.
Dorset’s Digital Wave conference for schools, Norwich’s #DigitalCity trail and nationwide TeenTech are all powerful examples of how to reach out to younger generations and inspire them to consider a career in digital tech.
Young people can also be engaged through Code Clubs, learning programmes and mentoring programmes.
Digital degree apprenticeships have already been introduced, and employers are collaborating with government in the development of 13 new digital apprenticeship standards, with more in the pipeline.
We must continue to encourage apprenticeships for digital tech careers, learning from examples such as the NextGen Skills Academy and the social media apprenticeship scheme run by The Juice Academy. Increased transparency and accessibility would help to ensure employers are aware of the new digital tech standards. These can be found here.
Our survey found that just one in nine digital tech companies has a majority of women in their workforce. In more than half (53%) of the organisations represented, men outnumber women by at least three to one. Work is already underway to redress the underrepresentation of women in the sector, by encouraging uptake in STEM subjects at GCSE, A-level and university. This should be continued (with commitment) while other initiatives are also explored, such as:
Although not every company needs venture capital or loans to fuel their growth, improving access to capital can make all the difference to international competitiveness, especially for high growth companies. This could be achieved through:
Investment is essential if businesses are to thrive and grow. In the UK, fixed internet traffic is now set to double every two years, while mobile data traffic will increase at a rate of between 25% and 42% per year. In order to meet this rising demand we should continue to increase access to Ultra Fast Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), which can be achieved by encouraging alternative providers, such as Hyper Optic and Optimity, to expand into urban areas. Ways to improve access for rural areas must also be explored with the Government’s recent announcement of £1 billion for this purpose (including full fibre and 5G), is a very promising sign. The UK must continue to exploit this considerable potential.
The Government’s ongoing support of the Tech Nation Visa is commendable and the recent 25% increase in capacity for this Tier 1 route is to be celebrated. As the UK begins the process of leaving the European Union, the tech sector has highlighted the importance of being able to recruit highly skilled staff from the EU and around the world. Tech City UK continues to work closely with the Home Office in order to help ensure that the UK continues to attract tech talent from all over the world.
In fact, almost three-quarters (74%) of our survey respondents who had used co-working spaces rated them as useful. Our survey found that co-working spaces continue to be important to startups with the use of office space becoming more relevant as the number of startups grow. Tech City UK and the government should continue to work together to support them.