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We know technology can be a force for good, and we see its impact everywhere. As we emerge from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis, we have a collective opportunity and obligation to find ways to leverage technology to bring about positive change in our businesses, lives and society.
Shockingly, two-thirds of those who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic are under the age of 25. This stark figure is evidence that without coordinated action, the negative economic impact of the pandemic will be a long-lasting one for this generation and for those to come.
The past sixteen months have been a crash course in digital skills – from moving business activities online to offering GP appointments via video calls. Everyone has had to learn new ways of using technology for work and for everyday life.
Tech hiring is at its highest level for five years and has surged past pre-pandemic levels. Since February 2021, there have been consistently more than 100,000 tech job vacancies per week. These figures show our booming tech sector is helping the UK build back better, bringing well-paid jobs and exciting opportunities to people up and down the country – and this trend is set to continue in the years to come.
Even at the height of the first lockdown, when the economic impacts of the pandemic were being felt across all industries, thousands of jobs requiring digital skills were being advertised – and yet most of them remain unfilled. The skills gap and the talent gap has widened, and we have brought the tech industry together to narrow it.
As employers in the technology sector, we are working with the government to create new and flexible pathways for people to train, retrain and reskill. This will enable them to thrive in the post-pandemic economy and facilitate the country to build back better with tech at the heart of economic recovery.
Beyond the immediate and mammoth task of retraining people, we must also embed a culture of lifelong learning. This will allow us to keep up with the pace of digital change and create a positive approach to the continuous adoption of new skills and aptitudes.
At the same time, we can enable a generation of people to pivot towards new and valuable careers and a generation of new digital businesses to access the skills they need to grow and keep innovating. We have already seen good work in the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, which is an innovative government reform – however, we need much more.
As jobs are created, we must connect them with the people who need them. If we can match technology roles with those displaced by the pandemic, we will be playing a significant part in helping to transform the nation’s employment prospects and create a much-needed pipeline of digital skills and tech talent.
Much has been learned since the Apprenticeship Levy was first introduced, and there is now strong consensus about the pathways into digital roles for people from all walks of life.
The Fast Forward for Digital Jobs Taskforce convened by TechUK – and including tech businesses Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, BT, Salesforce, Cisco, FDM Group, and UKFast – has identified seven key recommendations in its recent report, which will enable us to skill, reskill and retrain people, guiding them into fulfilling jobs for the future and equipping them with the tools they need to thrive.
These broadly fall under three headings: supporting learners, supporting employers and delivering at scale across the nation. These recommendations support the government’s ambition to revolutionise and restructure the skills system.
As we look forward to stepping out of the shadow of the pandemic, there has never been a greater need for us to work together in a concerted and committed drive to transform the UK skills landscape.
This can only be achieved through collaboration, long-term thinking and significant investment. If we work together, we can equip the workforce with the skills and careers they need for the future and prepare them for what comes next.