The UK is still in the midst of battling one of its biggest challenges in living memory and no industry is immune to its impact. As the country attempts to get back on its feet, some sectors have the potential to emerge from this in good health – with the tech industry being primed among them.
With technologies such as cloud services, artificial intelligence and cyber security increasingly coming to the fore over the last decade or so, the tech industry has long been a key player helping businesses to operate. However, as the lockdown hit and those that could work from home were instructed to do so, the importance of a business’ IT infrastructure was multiplied significantly. Whereas before, IT management would have remote working policies in place for a few, likely senior, staff, now it’s become the new normal for nearly every employee.
As office chairs have laid empty and second bedrooms have been converted into makeshift offices, the technology industry has had to get to work faster than almost any other industry, with the notable exception of the healthcare sector. Although the market has slowly started showing the first signs of recovery, there’s still the question of how confident each industry should be about its prospects and in turn, how it’s workers should feel about their roles in the months and years to come.
An amplified need for tech skills
The good news is the majority of the tech industry is optimistic about its prospects according to the CWJobs Confidence Index 2020 report. Despite a slight drop on the year before, 81% still feel confident in the state of the industry currently.
One of the main reasons for this confidence must be the important role that technology has played during the pandemic, as 75% agreed that IT/tech was vital to keeping companies afloat during the coronavirus outbreak. Evidence is also showing that businesses are set to place more value in their IT teams moving forward with 49% of decision makers in the industry believing their businesses will increase tech budgets in the future in response to learnings from Covid-19. This increased confidence, in budgetary terms at least, is a big shot in the arm for the industry as many businesses are fighting not to thrive, but even just survive in the current climate.
By placing technology at the heart of their response to the pandemic, businesses are handing the keys over to tech professionals and giving them the remit to drive the company forward.
Accelerated digital transformation
The evidence of the impending increase in tech budgets is backed up by the acceleration of digital transformation strategies within businesses. As they have been forced to adapt, many have taken this as an opportunity to innovate or realized the parameters holding them back no longer apply. As such, a fifth of large enterprises have increased spending in strategic initiatives like digital transformation already, according to recent research. We would expect this number to grow exponentially too as we delve further into this new world.
As digital transformation grows within companies then, this should give tech professionals and the wider industry confidence about the stability of the sector in the years ahead too. What the tech industry must do is ensure it has the necessary tools and resources to be able to handle that influx of demand. This is again where the tech skills gap issue comes in.
Time to bridge the tech skills gap
The UK is notoriously known for its tech skills gap, long before Covid-19. Demand for cyber security engineers for example, has continually outstripped supply, as the UK government revealed that 54% of businesses and charities have a skills gap in this area, falling to 18% in the public sector. According to the Royal Society’s Dynamics of Data Science Skills report too, demand for workers with specialist data skills has more than tripled over five years (231%). Fast forward to today and with the increasing need for tech expertise to help companies with their digital transformation strategies, ensuring that the supply of talent is there could be the only thing stopping the industry coming out ahead after all this is over.
In order to avoid this, businesses should look to take some of that budget reserved for new technologies and invest it in people. This can be done in a number of ways from hiring people externally or re-training existing staff, the number of free online cybersecurity courses available to individuals looking to broaden their knowledge and skill-sets suggests that many candidates will offer companies different and unique specialties.
We’ve witnessed the UK government support this notion too, placing focus in online learning platforms such as ‘The Skills Toolkit’ enabling people to build their tech skills both in and out of the office. By allowing employees to expand their tech skills, we will see that gap between supply and demand come down post-Covid. Finally, it’s vital the industry also looks to the next generation and continues to offer opportunities through initiatives like apprenticeships, enabling the development of key skills through on the job training.
So, while the country is starting to get back on to its feet, the role of the technology industry has never been more vital. As such, those in the industry or anyone looking to come into it, should feel confident that this is a sector that’s just hitting its stride.
- Dominic Harvey, Director at the UK’s leading tech job board CWJobs.
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