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Tech London Advocates has received backing from hundreds of dominant figures in London’s tech sector to publicly pledge to reach one million people in tech jobs in the city by 2023.
The private sector network developed the pledge, which currently has more than 200 signatories, to both grow the London tech scene and tackle the lack of diversity in the sector.
TLA’s pledge comes after the network called on the technology industry to hire up to one million more tech-focused employees in the next five years.
Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates, said: “It is wonderful to see leading figures from the UK tech community pledging their commitment to this cause in such high numbers.
“Talent is the most pressing issue faced by digital businesses – both big and small – and only through joint action can we make a lasting difference. The tech sector is one of Britain’s stand out industries, and by strengthening its foundations, we can sustain its growth and keep Britain at the forefront of global innovation.”
Many believe the only way to fill the tech industry skills gap across the UK is through collaboration between industry, government and education providers, as well as organisations committed to the cause.
Signatories include well-known names in the tech sector, such as Joanna Shields, chairperson of BenevolentAI, Kathryn Parsons, founder of Decoded and Jacqueline de Rojas, president of techUK, as well as technology firms including Microsoft UK, Telefonica, BT Consumer, Oracle, Box and Twilio.
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Also in support is Amali de Alwis, CEO of Code First Girls and the 2018 Computer Weekly Most Influential Woman in UK IT.
But to reach the pledge’s goal of one million filled tech roles in the capital by 2023, a new job will have to be created every three minutes, as figures from Tech Nation state there are currently 318,480 people in tech employment in the capital, as well as 48,000 vacancies for tech positions across the UK, according to online recruiter Adzuna.
Not only are there frequent complaints about the lack of skilled workers in the sector, a large number of groups are discounted from the potential talent pool, such as women, ethnic minorities, those with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community.
On the subject of women in technology specifically – despite the fact more than 80% of those already in the sector would recommend a career in tech to young women, a large majority are still put off by a lack of inclusion and negative gender stereotypes.
Sarah Luxford, founder of the TLA WiT Working Group, said: “The technology sector is quickly becoming at the core of our daily lives, controlling how we work, interact and communicate. And yet its ability to be inclusive does not match its progress.
“We must work to make the tech sector more inclusive, and gender diversity is a key part of this. Only 17% of the ecosystem is female, and this number must change. TLA’s pledge is making great strides to make this happen.”
Efforts to increase BAME startup founders
The same could be said for ethnic minority groups, who are also underrepresented in the industry, though there are recent efforts to increase the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) startup founders in the UK by 2020.
Mark Martin, founder UKBlackTech, said: “We are on a mission to make the UK the most ethnically diverse tech sector in the world and we want everyone to be a part of this journey. The pledge encourages us all to move beyond the tokenism, kind gestures and diversity buzz words.
“We want to be the agent of change for our future generations and ensure that tech products, services and companies reflect us all.”
TLA’s pledge challenges signatories in the tech sector to remove some of the barriers into the industry, as well as improving the gender balance in tech, creating an inclusive environment for underrepresented groups and helping encourage more young people in the industry.
Reforming the education system
The industry has also pledged to do what it can to reform the education system and rebuild the immigration process – both of which have been called into question in recent years.
The computing curriculum, though newly developed in 2014 to introduce digital skills, has often been criticised for being too rigid, and unable to quickly deliver the homegrown digital talent the UK may well need in the wake of Brexit.
Meanwhile, the immigration process for skilled workers in the UK left 3,000 skilled Stem workers turned away from the UK in the beginning of 2018, though rules around Tier 2 visa caps are soon due to change.
Pat Saini, immigration lawyer at Penningtons Manches, said: “A key part of future-proofing the UK’s tech sector and maintaining a strong talent pool is immigration.
“Visa categories including Tier 2 visas for high-skilled workers need to be streamlined to allow for the growing demand for talent in the tech industry. TLA’s pledge is certainly a step in the right direction in bringing talent into the UK in a straightforward, non-bureaucratic way.”
Many also believe initiatives such as this need to be monitored and measured to ensure they are making a difference. TLA will keep tabs over the progress of the pledge over the next five years.