FourthRev founder Jack Hylands

As the UK government looks to rebound and seek out ways to drive the post-pandemic economic recovery, the message from business leaders is clear: more needs to be done to close the digital economy skills gap.

Without this investment, the new study found that four in five UK businesses will need to turn to recruiting overseas within the next 12 months to acquire the digital skills they need, which highlights the unrealised potential for job seekers in the UK.

Without access to the right quality and quantity of talent, well over half of businesses reported they were concerned about missing out on key strategic deliverables (60%) within the next five years, as well as not delivering value to shareholders (55%). The new study also found that four in five UK businesses (81%) felt they would need to recruit talent from overseas within the next 12 months to deliver on key growth objectives and that just over half (53%) would pay over the odds to acquire the digital skills they need.

This latest research from FourthRev surveyed more than 100 HR, talent acquisition and Learning and Development (L&D) executives from a wide range of sectors including finance, IT, manufacturing, media, consulting, government, utilities and retail.

Across these industries, 54% reported finding it difficult to source good candidates for entry-level digital economy roles, while data analytics, cybersecurity and programming skills were the top skills identified as a priority in the next 12 months.

A key cause for concern amongst employers (88%) is a lack of confidence in the existing structures of the education sector to deliver the graduates and upskilling provisions that are needed to rebound from the pandemic and thrive in the digital economy. With only 15% of organisations backing digital skills boot camps as a way to close the gap and 22% feeling that university alone would provide the right skillsets, 66% of talent leaders would prefer a hybrid solution that combines academic qualifications as well as a practical work portfolio.

Commenting on the research, FourthRev founder Jack Hylands said,

“COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of organisations in the UK, with many adopting new technologies to adapt to and bounce back from the pandemic. This has made digital skills even more highly valued, but our employer poll shows businesses simply aren’t able to access the skills they require. While there are a number of causes involved here, the research highlighted a key contributing factor being a lack of confidence that the education sector can support the development of applied digital skills and highly impactful learning experiences aligned to the future of work.

“What we now need is a hybrid solution that allows higher education (HE) and industry to join forces. Employers clearly value a combination of the two, so by merging their unique strengths there is significant potential to deliver up-to-date and industry-relevant education for learners across all demographics, no matter if you are an undergraduate or currently in a non-digital role looking to upskill. As any recovery from the current crisis hinges on the development of digital capabilities across the workforce, rethinking the relationship between university and industry must be made a priority.”

Simon Quinton, UKI Country Manager for the world’s leading analytics platform, Tableau,  commented: 

“It is not surprising to see data analysis and data science topping the list of skills that employers are seeking over the next year. The ability to use data to have better business conversations has become a mission critical differentiator for most organisations. It is great to be working with a company like FourthRev to help learners develop the hands on, practical experience needed, no matter where they are at in their data skills journey.”

To bring universities and industry closer together, FourthRev have formed partnerships with many of the world’s biggest tech companies, including AWS, GitHub and Tableau, and top universities to co-design and deliver HE courses that offer a direct pathway to qualifications and employment in the digital economy. These courses increase learner choice and offer pathways to acquiring in-demand skills and industry certificates, all while allowing students to earn credit toward a degree.

FourthRev also works with a range of major education partners, such as FutureLearn, to bring industry and HE closer together, while its courses are currently available via 11 higher educational providers. The start-up has a catalogue of over 60 courses, which it is expected to deliver to more than 2,000 learners over the next 12 months.

Methodology: This survey was conducted by Udder Group in March 2021. It captures the responses of over 100 talent acquisition, recruitment, talent management, L&D, HR leaders across a broad range of sectors including finance, IT, manufacturing, media, consulting, government, utilities, retail. Company sizes surveyed are as follows: 15% over 10k, 62% between 1k-10k and 25% below 1000 employees.

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