Cast Your Net Wider To Overcome UK Digital Skills Gap
The Covid-19 crisis has brought many aspects of the way we work into focus over the past 12 months, not least the areas where managerial expertise is lacking.
The pandemic, followed swiftly by Brexit, have presented a golden opportunity for our manufacturers; however, while it’s clear that UK-manufactured goods may win in terms of quality, sustainability and availability, Britain lags behind her competitors in terms of technological skills.
In manufacturing specifically, advancements in Industry 4.0 technology have brought many possibilities to the table. Innovations such as automation, data exchange, artificial intelligence and machine learning are revolutionising the way that companies work.
The concept of the smart factory is no longer consigned to a vague date in the future, it’s happening right now. Digitised, connected systems that use automation and self-optimisation are increasing productivity around the world. Premises in France, Ireland, China and the Czech Republic were named the globally most productive, powerful smart factories by the World Economic Forum in 2019.
Innovative use of technology enables manufacturers to produce goods efficiently on a large scale as well as improving processes such as planning, R&D and supply chain logistics.
And central to maximising such potential is having people with the right skills to harness these possibilities.
Invest in people as well as tech
Ambitious companies anxious to make the most of the Industry 4.0 revolution could invest in the ultimate ‘smart’ equipment only to find their workforce unable to utilise it to its full potential and achieve maximum ROI. This skills gap may be apparent on the shop floor; however, this can generally be addressed with training in the workplace.
Arguably more damaging is the lack of understanding in the board room. Leaders without the knowledge and vision will fail to maximise the potential that innovation can bring to their business.
Unfortunately, the UK has fallen behind other countries in terms of investment in IT skills. The 2020 Global Skills Index report found we are already struggling with essential digital knowledge – worrying when you consider that during the pandemic, the digital and IT sector has been the bedrock of the global economy.
Europe is home to 15 of the most skilled countries, including Russia (first in the world for both computer science and technology skills), Belarus and Switzerland (second and third on the list). Yet Britain ranked just 23rd in technology skills and 24th in data science ability.
Elsewhere, China, India and the Far East are acknowledged as powerhouses in this sector, with China in particular emerging as the leading global player in the development of AI.
Driving the digital revolution
Worryingly, it is apparent we were struggling to recruit the right skills in technology and data science even before the start of the pandemic.
Outside the manufacturing sector, the pandemic has seen a surge in e-commerce, with year-year online sales in the UK up 74% in January 2021, the highest rate of growth since the start of Lockdown 1.0 in March last year and accounting for more than a third (35%) of all retail, according to figures from the ONS.
As our high streets continue to be decimated by the effects of various lockdowns and restrictions, shoppers have turned to their smartphones and laptops to get their retail fix.
Retailers have had to innovate quickly to reposition their offerings, turning to online sales as they fight to survive. But as digital becomes the new – and for some, only – normal, our lack of proficiency in e-commerce could hamper the UK retail sector recovery.
And while any commitment to invest in learning and development for young people should be welcome, our economy needs well-equipped workers of all ages. Initiatives such as universities partnering with industry and courses that closely follow the requirements for real-world jobs are obviously welcome but will take time to produce rewards.
Widen the recruitment net
In this respect, businesses need to get with the programme and to think outside their usual recruitment area. Until we can reap the rewards of improved training initiatives, companies need to break down traditional barriers and consider hiring from overseas.
The UK is still a highly desirable place to live and work. Widening the pool of talent from which business recruit offers a solution to the immediate skills shortage.
This may appear to be a daunting prospect for businesses still coming to terms with remote and flexible working. There is, however, a solution – to enrol the services of an expert in overseas recruitment and relocation.
At Red Diamond, we have been working with companies based around the globe for 10 years and can not only find the perfect candidate with the relevant digital skills, we can help them with the entire relocation process.
If you need to enhance your digital capabilities but are frustrated by the size of the talent pool in the UK, talk to our team today.