Universities must highlight digital skills to fill London IT jobs, says technology network

Universities and the private sector must collaborate to raise awareness of the skills needed to fill IT jobs in London, says Tech London Advocates

Universities and private sector organisations need to work closer together to raise awareness of technology job opportunities in London.

While London’s technology sector has rapidly increased in recent years, there remains a digital skills shortage.

Some 70% of Tech London Advocates – a network of more than 500 people in the technology ecosystem who promote London’s technology sector – said they believe London doesn’t have the skilled graduates it needs to sustain the city’s technology growth. The organisation called for the private sector and universities to co-operate to identify the skills needed for digital jobs.

Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of the network believe the employability of British computer science graduates is only average or poor, due to failings in their training.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, said that, while the UK has some of the world’s best universities, the country is not producing the talent to fill the increasing number of technology jobs.

“Universities need to better prepare graduates for the digital economy and engage the private sector to ensure they are teaching relevant skills to meet demand,” said Shaw. “Investors and entrepreneurs need to be reassured that London has the talent to effectively scale technology businesses.”

The skills in greatest demand

TLA members said technology companies are struggling to find software developers (30%), engineers (12%) and product managers (10%).

Will Bentinck, the Tech London Advocates education working group lead, said: “With the recent introduction of the computing curriculum, it is imperative that schools, colleges and universities are capable of preparing young people for an undeniably digital world.”

But Maggie Philbin, leader of UK Digital Skills Taskforce and CEO of TeenTech – an organisation that holds events to help young teenagers understand the career possibilities in science, engineering and technology – said the private sector needs to work harder to provide more opportunities for the future technology workforce through sharing skills, showing support and developing apprenticeship schemes.

“The guidance and support of the private sector is invaluable for education providers,” she said.

Immigration roadblocks

Technology startups are finding it difficult to hire and expand their businesses due to the skills shortage, and face the added strain of immigration policies making it difficult to hire from outside the UK.

Alastair Paterson, CEO of startup Digital Shadows, told Computer Weekly last year that hiring high-calibre technology staff is extremely difficult.

"There’s a huge skills shortage in technology and startups really struggle because we can’t afford the wages that the corporations can pay their employees," he said. 

"There’s a shortage in an already limited pool – even in London – that everyone’s competing for.”

The lengthy and complicated visa application processes make it difficult for startups to hire from outside the UK, he said.

This is another area where TLA has been lobbying for change, by consulting with the Home Office to make the process easier.

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