I can’t believe that it is already nearly February and, as we hurtle into 2017, I‘m excited to see what the next twelve months will bring to our sector.
It’s fair to say that 2016 was a tumultuous year in the UK, particularly with Brexit and the uncertainty that was brought about by a dramatic constitutional change to our country’s relationship with the EU. It has been felt throughout, with some businesses feeling insecure about the potential impact of Brexit when it is adopted in full force (and others also keeping a watchful eye on the other fairly momentous political events in the USA!).
Last year I wrote a blog that focused on the tech skills deficit that we are still feeling throughout the UK, where the number of IT jobs are still out-stripping the number of professionals that are available to fulfil them. On one hand, the continued growth of the sector it is good for business and a strong nod to our first-rate British tech scene, yet at the same time the skills shortage is worrying for the future growth of our IT industry and its ability to remain globally competitive.
The world of work is changing and in many ways it is ironic that we have so many unfilled jobs in technology whilst, we also see that technology is often responsible for the loss of many traditional roles. On that note, if you are interested in how technology is changing the world of work, I would highly recommend attending Russell Beck’s 20/20 vision seminar.
However, as a natural optimist I believe there are silver linings to be discovered as change and adversity are often the founders of innovation and progress. In the words of John Lennon, “There are no problems…only solutions.”
There are numerous commentators highlighting the shortage of women in tech and worryingly the statistics consistently underpin the fact that women make up only 25% of the total tech workforce. Could the solution to our tech talent shortage staring us in the face?
I am constantly encouraged by the many creative activities and programmes designed around diversity and inclusion, each taking another positive step towards a more balanced approach towards equalityand talent attraction, and therefore a more diverse and sustainable workforce. Working with our clients and supporting the ongoing efforts of affiliate organisations, I am thrilled to be involved with some fantastic programmes, which include:
- Tackling unconscious bias within the recruitment process
- Challenging diversity head-on by reviewing recruitment practices
- Encouraging more young people at a grassroots level to focus on STEM-related subjects
- Focusing on inclusion programmes including Women in Tech-focused activities to raise awareness of the sector and highlight the multitude of career options available
I also believe it’s very timely to remind ourselves how much investment has gone into our UK tech industry to date; in 2016 we saw £2.7bn worth of venture capital funding coupled with ongoing significant investments being made into our Fintech scene, which has risen spectacularly over recent years. The UK jobs market remains buoyant and unemployment is at a ten-year low. And of course, lest we forget in last year’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced an investment of up to £2bn on tech.
It’s early days for 2017, but just last week Theresa May committed to investing £556m in the ‘Northern Powerhouse', £170m of which has been earmarked as capital funding for Institutes of Technology to deliver education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). These subjects ensure we can equip our younger talent with the skills most in demand by employers.
This is fantastic news for the region that is already the second largest start up and tech hub outside of London.
Some silver linings indeed.