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Tech London Advocates (TLA) has pledged to close the digital skills gap by encouraging firms to employ one million people into tech jobs by 2023.
As part of the campaign, the 6,000-strong industry network has highlighted what actions need to be taken to increase the gender balance in tech, increase diversity in tech, better utilise graduates and develop a better visa system for skilled workers.
By combining these efforts, the TLA claimed the technology industry could bring 10,000 people into technology related roles each month, therefore achieving the goal of one million by 2023.
“Bringing more women into tech companies will have a dramatic impact on the scale of London’s tech employment landscape,” said TLA founder Russ Shaw.
Figures from Tech Nation suggest UK tech companies currently employ 318,480 people in digital jobs, but Adzuna figures state there are 48,297 technology vacancies in London alone, and TLA highlighted a number of groups, such as woman, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community are very few and far between in the tech industry.
It has been proven that having diverse teams can make firms more innovative and productive, but there are still a lack of minorities in the technology industry, despite initiatives to try and tackle the problem.
While 51% of London’s population is female, only 17% of tech roles in London are filled by women, and TLA’s Shaw claimed encouraging women and other underrepresented groups is the most efficient way to fill the technology skills gap.
Female-founded startups struggle for funding
TLA suggested increasing the amount of funding for female-founded businesses to increase diversity in the city’s tech sector, and recommended encouraging women to join investment firms to push up the likelihood of funding for female-led firms.
Linda Aiello, senior vice-president of international employee success at Salesforce, said the “cognitive diversity” of teams created by having a mix of talent will help firms to better reflect their customers, and considering diversity in the tech industry is not only becoming “increasingly important” for product design, but should be considered at all levels of a company.
“The technology sector, like almost every other industry, faces a diversity gap,” she said. “This is an issue that’s felt across all organisations and all sectors and it crosses so many threads from gender and race to religion, sexuality and socio-economic backgrounds – each of which contributes to the cognitive diversity of a team.”
To increase the diversity in technology roles, the TLA claimed to support diversity quotas particularly in senior leadership roles, a place where many organisations fall short.
It also said the private sector should do more to support initiatives that encourage BAME individuals into the industry, such as UK Black Tech.
Fujitsu’s employee experience, diversity and inclusion lead in EMEIA, Sarah Kaiser, said increasing the diversity in the technology industry will help to keep London tech landscape competitive and innovative.
“With the skills gap costing our economy billions a year, more needs to be done to attract a diverse range of talent into tech roles,” she said. “A shortage of candidates is partly due to a lack of awareness of the opportunities that exist, and the inaccurate perception that some groups, such as women or LGBT+ individuals, do not belong in the tech sector.”
With Brexit on the horizon and a large number of technology roles in the UK being filled by talent from outside of the UK, there has been a recent emphasis on creating home grown talent to fill this gap, with the TLA claiming London currently isn’t developing enough technology talent to fill the number of vacant roles.
Many also claim that graduates, even those having taken relevant technology subjects, do not have the technical skills needed to walk straight into a job, so TLA suggested all university graduates should be given a week of coding education to ensure they have a basic level of digital skills, ready for the workplace.
It also suggested doing more to ensure tech talent is attracted to London, including increasing the number of ways technology companies can gain technology talent through dedicated visas.
The government has promised to introduce a startup visa for entrepreneurs, which TLA said is a “step in the right direction” but claimed the tier 2 visa cap should be reviewed to ensure talented people aren’t being needlessly turned away.
Young and inspirational leaders in technology
As part of its campaign to encourage diverse hiring in the tech sector, TLA announced its first annual list of 25 young and inspirational leaders in technology.
The list shines a light on young leaders in the technology industry under the age of 25 who are on the track to changing the digital landscape in the UK through founding startups, creating apps or making a difference by using digital in the charities sector.
“Young, talented tech founders and entrepreneurs are the CEOs of the tech giants that will dominate our tomorrow,” said TLA’s Shaw. “It is only right we champion young leaders early and support them on their journey, backing their ingenuity and ensuring they develop to their full potential.
“In light of the talent shortage we face in the UK, nurturing our brightest minds must be a priority and a necessity – they are the trailblazers that will define Britain’s success in the age of digital.”