How tech can narrow sector-specific skill gaps
As more businesses move to digital-first approaches, empowered by growing technology solutions, a skills gap is opening up across many sectors, leaving organisations unable to recruit staff with the necessary skillset to thrive amid new ways of working.
A lack of high-calibre tech specialists has been cited as one of the biggest reasons for underrepresentation across both gender and race in tech sectors, with growing pressure on organisations to find better ways of recruiting and developing a skilled workforce.
At London Tech Week’s Global Leaders Innovation Summit, a panel of successful female leaders across the tech space spoke on the role organisations must play in talent development in order to feed into the changing makeup of the sector.
“With the pandemic, the pace of change and adoption of new technology has accelerated,” said session chair Joysy John – CEO of O1 Founders. “That has created two gaps: basic digital skills gap, which has widened even more; and advanced digital skills which companies need in order to continue with digital transformation and accelerate growth.”
She asked the panel what their organisations were doing to overcome these challenges.
Christin Owings, managing director, at BCG said the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that taking a strategic approach to digital transformation had become much more important. “Companies who are doing this well are taking a much more strategic approach to this are doing much better, but that takes a real analytical approach and the ability to think long term with your planning. To those companies who haven’t started on this, I’d urge them to look at not just what roles they need now, but what they may need five years in the future.”
Building on this point, Tech Talent Charter CEO Debbie Forster said these were common problems across multiple industries, and so they need a common approach to tackle them. This will involve co-operation, with employers sharing approaches to upskilling that have worked, with other firms.
“Treating it just like a competitive secret is the equivalent of investing in an expensive fishing rod and going to the same leaky barrel that everyone else is using,” she added. “Once you have that strategic vision, you need to then have the bravery not just to think about the future, but also to think about what you can share with the whole ecosystem to move the whole language and landscape onwards.”
Digital Boost, which has 3,000 companies who have signed up to mentor small businesses in achieving 55 different types of digital skills, is trying to identify the skills gap and tech shortages in order to offer upskilling masterclasses.
Sherry Coutu, who credited BCG for prompting the launch of Digital Boost, said there are several areas where formal education cannot fill the digital skills gap. However, technology itself can be leveraged to make a more holistic approach. Digital Boost identified six key areas that need to be tackled and has used AI to identify crossovers and the taxonomy in order to align them. This, said Coutu, is the “perfect example of technology being used to aid the development of technology.”
“It is okay to have different taxonomies as different sectors have different requirements, but to close those gaps, we need to be able to speak the same language,” she added.
“Planning for the jobs of the future is key to success,” said Nicky Kirshen, managing director at Decoded, “but this can be difficult to do. This means companies need to foster a culture of lifelong learning – being able to learn new skills as their roles and jobs evolve.”
“At Decoded, we built our data academies for individuals who may not have learned since they left formal education and helping to teach them new skills in the role,” Kirshen explained. “Organisations are now beginning to realise it is their problem to solve. They can no longer just compete for the best talent on the market – we need to grow it in-house.”
Forster added that many existing roles will cease to exist in the near future, whether it be down to new technology that boosts efficiencies or the transition of traditional models into digital-first approaches. With that in mind, companies need to not just look at training existing staff in new skills, but potentially look at reskilling them all together to prepare them for entirely new roles.
“One of the key failures in digital transformation is the lack of talent and not having people with the right skills,” explained Owings.
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