50% of large firms and 44% of small firms report a growing skills gap. Respondents report negative impacts on productivity, innovation, sales and profitability.

A survey of over 550 professionals in the UK by CompTIA, the leading trade association for the global technology industry, has revealed that despite the chronic IT skills gap, only 4 in 10 firms have a strategy in place to address the challenge and more than half (55%) struggle to even fully identify skills gaps among their workforce. Currently, 50% of large firms and 44% of small firms report a growing skills gap.

The findings indicated that the leading impacts of the skills gap are lower productivity (41%), reduced innovation (40%) and lower sales and profitability (35%). Importantly, the report shows that the impact of the skills gap isn’t isolated to IT functions alone. As roles adapt and cross-over between functions increase, additional skills gap challenges arise. For example, an IT manager working in the healthcare industry might need to deal with GDPR issues for marketing campaigns.

Emerging technology

The report also suggests that the skills shortfall is most acutely felt (60%) in emerging technology – such as AI, automation, IoT – followed by cybersecurity (56%) and integrating different applications, data sources and devices (56%). This is particularly concerning as these technologies become increasingly prevalent in business and wider society, with internet-enabled devices becoming standard, and huge data breaches now a daily occurrence.

However, traditional IT functions such as cloud, IT support and administration remain a significant concern and should not be neglected in a rapidly evolving technology landscape.

“While emerging technology ranks top of skills gap areas within IT, it’s important to highlight that this is likely to have a smaller impact on companies’ bottom lines than skills gaps in the more established areas of technology such as cybersecurity, cloud and IT management that support core business functions,” said Tim Herbert, Senior Vice President, Research & Market Intelligence at CompTIA. “While there are fewer people skilled in emerging technology, it doesn’t have as significant an impact on businesses, and upskilling core and foundational IT skills is still the priority.”

Brexit

Brexit also remains a concern. Of the 8 in 10 UK managers who expect that Brexit will have at least some negative impact on the tech workforce, more than half anticipate it being more difficult to attract / hire international tech talent (53%). Another 44% foresee potential loss of tech sector competitiveness over time as a further possible negative impact.

“UK businesses are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of IT skills, particularly around emerging technologies and cybersecurity,” said Graham Hunter, VP EMEA at CompTIA. “It’s essential that we as an industry work to improve the pipeline of talent entering the workforce, starting with the education system and into the workplace with on-the-job training through programmes like apprenticeship schemes.”

Strategies to tackle the skills gap

With more than 125,000 IT workers in the UK aged 55 or older (CompTIA analysis of Emsi and ONS data) and looming retirements, delaying efforts to address the quantity and quality of the talent pipeline will only exacerbate the problem.

When asked about strategies for addressing skills gap challenges within the workforce pipeline, companies emphasised the need for more student exposure to careers in IT, better ways to provide on-the-job experience and job training. The research shows that about 9 in 10 of UK firms have or would consider an apprenticeship programme for an IT role (89% net).

“At CompTIA we are striving to inspire more people into IT careers,” said Hunter. “Our recent initiatives, such as IT Ready and Cyber Ready aim to encourage more people from a range of backgrounds into the industry to help bolster the future of the digital economy.”

The report: Assessing the IT Skills Gap in the UK, surveyed the 551 IT and business professionals in the UK to provide a comprehensive understanding of the workforce challenges that the technology industry faces today. Respondents were from UK organisations ranging from large retailers, financial institutions to SMEs.

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