DEMAND for IT and digital skills in North Wales has never been higher. A study by the Learning and Work Institute (@LearnWorkCymru) found that across the UK, one in four companies has a significant gap when it comes to basic computer skills. That, coupled with a 40% fall in school pupils taking ICT at GCSE level since 2015, has led to a dramatic decline in talent.
Colwyn Bay and Bangor-based S2 Recruitment has witnessed this trend and revealed a growing number of permanent IT and digital posts in North Wales are being filled by candidates from outside the region. Business Manager Sian Shepherd confirmed that while this was the case there has also been an exodus of talent across the border.
“We have the skills right here in North Wales but for some reason a lot of people have travelled to England and further afield for work, rather than applying for quality digital roles right here on their doorstep,” said Sian.
“This has become a significant issue – especially due to the Coronavirus pandemic and more people than ever moving online – with S2 Recruitment helping to appoint people from as far away as London, Kent, Norfolk and even Scotland to take up positions in Gwynedd and Anglesey.
“That said, we are also aware there are skilled and experienced people from North Wales working nationally and internationally for global companies, so there is a crossover.”
Research also revealed there is a massive need for more candidates with AI (Artificial Intelligence), robotics and cloud computing experience, and a disparity in the number of young women applying for roles.
“More than 80% of the positions we have appointed to in the last six months have been filled by male candidates; the number of female applicants in this sector is low,” said Sian.
“This is where education is going to be key; we really need to see academia and the private sector work together to attract more youngsters into industries where there will be a better chance of a career for them, and to address the demographic challenges.
“It is a candidate-driven market right now, especially for those who are highly skilled, so it’s imperative this is capitalised on.”
She added: “One way could be to introduce 12-month placements on further and higher education courses in the fields of IT and computer science, so students are ‘job ready’ on graduating.
“We hear from clients turning away customers because they do not have the staff to tackle the digital elements of the work, especially in light of Covid-19 and an inability to recruit due to skills shortages.
“Some have tried hiring from abroad and others are simply failing to hire anyone and seeing it impact on revenue. Solutions have to be found, and soon, because the problem is only going to get worse if things continue.”
Points reinforced by Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann, CEO of Worldskills UK. He said:
“With digital technology now embedded in so many parts of life, from virtual GP appointments and online retail to industry 4.0 and the rise of fintech, it has never been such an important time to look at the digital skills our economy needs.
“The findings show there is a mismatch between supply and demand; the majority of our employer poll believe that their reliance on digital skills will increase in the future, yet analysis of digital skills provision in education shows that the numbers training in digital skills is on a downward trend. “And there is a significant gender gap, with young women reporting that they are both less confident and less interested in digital careers compared to young men.”
Dr Bentley-Gockmann added: “WorldSkills UK is committed to acting on the outcomes of this research to improve the opportunities for more young people, and help ensure more employers can be confident about accessing the high-quality digital skills they need to help power our economic recovery.”