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IT and digital employers seek talent abroad amid UK skills shortage

Employers look abroad for new talent, as UKs young people leave school without the right skills, finds City & Guilds survey

UK IT and digital companies are among the worst affected by a skills shortage, which is forcing employers to look abroad for talent, according to City & Guilds.

To kick off Work Experience Week, the company released its research revealing that 60% of all employers are struggling to find the right candidates. However, 74% of employers in the digital, IT and information services industry claim to be facing a skills crisis.

Surveying 1,000 UK businesses, the research found almost 50% of digital companies are considering looking abroad for potential candidates. A total of 61% of these feel the need to look abroad because young people in the UK are leaving education without the right skills needed for the sector.

The figure is much higher in the digital sector than others. Only 25% are considering looking abroad for new employees in the public sector, 22% in retail and sales and 24% in hospitality and tourism.

Chris Jones, chief executive and director-general of City & Guilds, said: “This research has huge implications for the government’s attempts to curb youth unemployment, which still lags at around one million. But the issue is not simply a lack of job opportunities. There is a more fundamental problem with the qualifications, core skills and lack of understanding of the workplace that is preventing young people from successfully finding employment.  

“It is clear that a step change is needed in the education system to move away from a pure focus on academia towards a curriculum that meets the needs of employers.”

Work experience

The research also found that 80% of employers in the IT and digital sector believe work experience puts young people in the strongest position for securing work, by reading them for the work of business. A total of 70% said they would be more likely to hire a young person with work experience over a candidate with none.

Of those asked, 66% believe structured work experience should be mandatory for 16-18 year olds.

The survey also found that the digital sector works harder than any other to attract new talent through working with school and colleges, with 76% of employers from the sector investing their time here. This figure was just 58% for employers from across all sectors surveyed.

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