There’s a country-wide skills shortage affecting the entire employment market, and the second most affected sector, according to the Korn Ferry Institute, are IT jobs.
With 60% of employers stating that they have vacancies staying open for 12 weeks or longer due to a lack of skilled workers on the market, that skills gap is definitely felt acutely throughout the sector. For employers who have been looking to EU talent to bridge the gap, things are about to get a bit hairy.
After 3 years, it really is going to happen. (Well, probably.)
The country has been a heady mix of being utterly sick to the back teeth of hearing the ‘b’ word whilst being totally on the edge of its collective seat as the Brexit deadline approached… and then was anticlimactically extended until October. Of course, we may leave earlier if the deal is ratified before then, (though we aren’t holding our breath.)
Whatever the deal on B Day when it finally happens, we are all braced for reduced mobility across Europe. That consequence can only have a detrimental effect on the skills gap, reducing the pool of candidates from which skills-hungry employers can pick their newest brightest stars.
To make matters worse, there’s about to be a mass exodus of highly skilled workers.
According to a report from Deloitte, 47% of highly skilled workers from the EU who are currently working in the UK are considering leaving in the next five years – and 15% are planning to leave in the next 12 months. Depending on the deal secured by the EU, those figures are set to rise rapidly if the right to live and work in the UK for EU citizens is not agreed upon.
IT start-ups are particularly at risk, as they rely heavily on cheaper talent from the EU, and are likely to feel the blow quite acutely as they are expected to pay more for less.
With the right to free movement removed, and our borders with the European mainland permanently closed, the reciprocal relationship with EU member states will no longer provide the wealth of skilled workers UK employers have been used to. The UK will now, more than ever, need to compete on a global level for skills and talent – and for tech and Fintech roles, that means competing against attractive competition like Singapore, Iceland and Denmark, Switzerland, Germany and the USA.
We need to look closer to home for solutions to close the skills gap
With access to bright talent from over the channel reducing, it’s even more important to focus on how we can develop our own tech talent in the UK, both in terms of upskilling our domestic workforce and improving the computing element of education, both at primary and secondary level.
In response to the skills shortage, many tech giants have been launching initiatives to increase the number of people with digital skills in the UK. Google launched a grant to train computing teachers, and Microsoft developed a programme to improve the digital literacy of more than half a million people by next year. Facebook, too, provided digital skills training to 10,000 UK women last year.
We need to see more innovation from IT employers
This is a great start, but experts are cynical about how successful these individual programmes can be to drum up interest and stimulate uptake of ICT vocational education.
Experts agree that this disparate approach won’t get us anywhere and that all tech employers should be collaborating and engaging with each other to provide a culture of innovation. Only this way can a tech hive mind innovate for ways to improve the situation for the entire country, rather than simply vying for the same people in the war for talent.
While Britain recovered during the post-war period, and the ration books were in operation, Britons were encouraged to ‘dig for victory’ and grow their own way out of food shortages. Much the same should be expected of UK employers in a post-B-day Britain – work together to cultivate your own, homegrown solution to the skills shortage. We might feel another blog coming on.