Fear! Is it a factor of the digital skills shortage?

Posted by Katie Lauren Milnes |   28th February 2018

Fear! Is it a factor of the digital skills shortage?

In 2015 Tech Nation reported: “The UK’s digital tech sector grew 50% faster than the wider economy”.They also talked about how this growth was helping to strengthen local economies.

I recently attended Manchester Digital and according to the 2018 digital skills audit, 10% of businesses in the UK had said they had relocated all or part of their business to the North West (or within the NW) in the last 12 months.

It’s no surprise that this digital emigration is taking place especially with Salford and Trafford Park getting the fabulous tag of ‘Media City’. Other cities are also following trend and growing rapidly for example Leeds City Centre which is said to be ‘an established powerhouse’ with a 64.6bn economy.

However, what does this mean for local businesses? Ones that can’t afford to move to the city centre? During my time working within the recruitment industry, I’ve found that the three main reasons for a person looking to move job roles are salary, location and work life balance.

While the tech industry can certainly boast that it has some of the best salaries are the locations right for everyone? 77% of business reported growth as opposed to last year which was 83% . This is the first year we are seeing a decline but what’s even more concerning is that more than a quarter, 27% of companies have had to turn away work as a result of not being able to find the right talent. How long will the work life balance last in the digital sector when we can’t keep up with the supply and demand? Are people going to work longer hours? Probably not!

Will smaller companies take the brunt because the big players have poached all of their senior and experienced staff due to raising salaries? 47% of companies reported that they have increased salaries to remain competitive. But surely this can’t keep happening? This has to stop somewhere unless we continue to raise the costs to the end consumer?

Manchester digital reported that the biggest challenges in the digital space were:

· Talent retention

· Salary Demand

· Competitors Poaching

· Being able to offer support, progression and development

There are a number of businesses that because they are turning work away, losing staff to competitors and due to increased workload and pressure they just don’t have the time to support and develop existing staff or to bring new digital staff into their business, which means the skills gap will only continue to increase.

Perhaps recruiting graduates or taking on apprentices could be a possible option for them to bring new talent into their business.

However, Since the introduction of the apprentice levy in May of last year there has been a 61% decline in apprenticeship starts!

While I’m not knocking companies taking on graduates as I said previously it’s a fantastic way for employers to attract and bring new talent into their business. However, is there much difference between an apprentice and a graduate? 70% of businesses recruit graduates and 48% of businesses run their own grad schemes yet only 13% of businesses felt that grads have the right soft skills and tech knowledge; nearly a staggering 50% of companies don’t feel that graduates are work ready!

The bottom line is that every business works in different ways. The best workers are almost always the ones that have been there the longest.

We’ve all had that worker come along from the competitor and say ‘but we didn’t do it like this at so and so …’ so why not bring in fresh new talent and organically grow digital workers through our local businesses? Someone who is given an opportunity and continual tutelage is more likely to stay and help and assist with that ever griping staff retention!

Did you also know that an apprentice can be any age (16+)? A brand agency I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with told me their best developer was actually a painter and decorator who had decided to change career. Employers have an opportunity to potentially capitalise on government funding to re-train or up-skill existing staff however, a lot of people don’t realise this as they believe that apprenticeship funding is only available for young adults (aged 18 and under.)