Tech leaders tackle chronic digital skills crisis at Parliament summit

29 November 2023

UK tech leaders have convened in Parliament to address the pressing digital skills crisis, sparking urgent calls for collaborative action to bridge the widening gap.

Speaking at the Parliament Street thinktank’s Digital Skills Summit on Monday, 27 November, which was hosted by Dean Russell MP for Watford and chaired by Steven George-Hilley of Centropy PR, the panel of experts debated the role businesses should play in plugging the skills gap and encouraging more young people to enter the world of tech. 

Daniel Haville, Founder, BI:PROCSI, said: "Embracing data transformation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence is not just a nice to have; it's a societal imperative and will be the differentiator in the job market. 

“To harness the full potential of these technologies, there is an urgent need for a collective effort to redefine education and workforce strategies, ensuring that every citizen has the tools to navigate the complexities of the digital landscape and contribute meaningfully to the nation's technological advancement, directly impacting the UK's digital economy," added Haville. 

John Kirk, Group Deputy CEO at Inspired Thinking Group said, “For the UK to remain at the cutting-edge of technological development, it’s clear to me that a joined-up approach from government and businesses is needed to ensure digital skills keep up with rising demand, and the Digital Skills Summit is the perfect platform for these important conversations about our future.”

Michael Thornton, Senior Director, Public Sector at Investigo, said: “The UK digital capability crisis is in part caused by the archaic and clunky process organisations have in place to recognise their digital needs early, find the relevant talent and their contractual engagement models to deploy effectively.

“Many companies have slipped behind in the modern ways of surge contracts, packaged workforces, talent pipelining and prioritisation as well as utilising pliable and effective deployment processes. 

Thornton continued, “The UK workforce population now demands greater flexibility and autonomy, not just the digital community. Greater emphasis should be paid by organisations on their models and risk appetite for creative talent engagement”.

Margo Waldorf, Founder of Change Awards, said, “The UK's investment in digital and emerging technologies puts the country on the top of the innovation race, well ahead of other economies and it is encouraging to see further investment into this growing sector.

“In my experience successful education, learning and training, however, requires well-thought-through change management campaigns focusing on the individual's motivation for change and clearly laid out career opportunities that highlight 'what is in it for me'.

“Inducing individual inherent motivation is just one of the critical success factors here, and I would place access to information as the second one. I would like to see nationwide campaigns utilising local thought leaders that encourage participation and share success stories. 

Sharon Davies, CEO of Young Enterprise, commented: “The outbreak and ongoing recovery from Covid-19 has provided a further catalyst for the digitalisation of society, a process that has significantly altered all industries and left many confronting a digital skills shortage in their talent pipeline.

“By giving young people more opportunities to apply their digital skills in real-life settings, an ‘applied learning’ approach can be one of the most effective ways to prepare the next generation of workers for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

“This approach has been proven to have a direct correlation with increased engagement, motivation and helping young people develop the necessary confidence and competencies to better prepare for future employment.”

Rachid Hourizi MBE, Director at the Institute of Coding, concluded: "Education doesn't simply happen in early years up until work, it happens throughout life. There is real work going on to change the way we teach and train." 

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