Potential of digital sector hampered by lack of skills: UKCES

A new report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) titled ‘Technology and Skills in the Digital Industries’ reveals that IT specialists are the new force powering the UK economy but the potential of the digital sector to boost economic growth is being hampered by a lack of skills (view press release).

The report predicts that over the next ten years, IT specialists are expected to turn the digital sector into a heavyweight element of the UK economy, as cyber security, mobile technologies, Green IT and cloud computing change the way businesses and individuals use technology. The demand for new products, applications and mobile devices providing information securely, in ‘real time’ and in an energy efficient way are crucial for business growth.

The digital sector will require nearly 300,000 new recruits by 2020 to maximise its full potential. New roles will be created that will require both deeper and more specialised technical IT skills, complemented by business, sales and communications skills. But at present, a lack of specialist technical skills are hampering growth in the sector. Nearly one fifth of all vacancies are difficult to fill due to skills shortages, making it harder for digital companies to keep a pace with technological change.

The report was written by e-skills UK, the Sector Skills Council for business and information technology, and funded by UKCES.

Rachel Pinto, research manager at UKCES, said: “The digital sector contributes nearly £69 billion to the economy. Much of this is through the technology IT specialists develop and the services they provide. It is also one of the most productive sectors with a growth rate since the recession three times above average. 

“But the impact of IT specialists goes much further than this – of the total 1.1 million IT specialists in the UK, just under half are employed in the digital sector, with the rest most likely to be employed in finance and professional services, manufacturing or the public sector. 

“To make sure the digital sector really thrives, there’s a clear need for employers to take ownership of the skills agenda and play an active role in training the next generation of IT specialists.”

Key findings:

  • There is a growing need for high level IT specialisms, such as IT Architects, Big Data and Security specialists
  • Core technical and computing skills remain important, but upskilling existing IT specialists with broader, deeper skills and more new specialisms is critical for continued growth
  • Employment growth in the sector has risen by an average rate of 5.5% between 2009 and 2012
    89% of total employment in the sector is located in England, 7% in Scotland and 2% each in Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Digital sector workers are amongst the most highly qualified members of the UK workforce, with approximately 63% having a Higher Education qualification in 2012. Qualification levels have been rising since 2002.
  • However, in 2012 computing graduates had the highest unemployment rate six months after leaving University.

The report is available to download here.

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