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UK 'heading towards digital skills shortage disaster'

Ollie Gardner

22nd March 2021

The UK's workforce is set to fall drastically short of the demand for IT and digital skills if big changes aren't made to how young people are prepared for the world of work, according to The Learning & Work Institute.

The lack of guidance for school pupils about career paths that require digital skills, as well as a struggle to make technical jobs seem appealing to young people, is thought to be a key driver in the growth of the UK's digital skills gap. Not only will such a gap restrict productivity gains in the wider workforce, as employees struggle to use utilise productivity-enhancing programs, but it is also likely to affect the growth of the UK's high-tech sectors when firms are unable to hire the workers they need. This could lead to an outflow of tech-related investment from the UK or, alternatively, a need for the introduction of policies to encourage the inward migration of digitally-skilled workers to fill the labour supply shortage.

Despite government projects, such as the £84mn National Centre for Computing that was introduced in 2018 to help support teachers in IT-related subjects, the number of students taking computing courses at GCSE has fallen 40% since 2015. If urgent action isn't taken by the government to address this skills shortage then the UK's supply-side will take a significant hit in the medium to long-term with further stagnating productivity and a potential outflow of technology firms in search of a more skilled workforce.

Ollie Gardner

Ollie is a new economics teacher at an academically selective school having previously worked in the healthcare technology industry.

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