Lifelong learning critical for tech’s future – Jacqueline de Rojas

In this video from Computer Weekly’s annual diversity and inclusion in tech event, in partnership with Spinks, president of TechUK, Jacqueline de Rojas, talks about how as the tech sector continues to grow at a rapid pace, a focus should be put upon continuous skills development for people of all ages and professions across the UK.

With the pandemic having disproportionately affected many different groups across the UK, such as women and young people, de Rojas called for the technology industry to be a force for good going forward, using pandemic recovery as an opportunity to bring about “positive change on a national scale”.

The tech sector has been facing some issues over the last 10 years – de Rojas uses the gender pay gap as an example – gender pay gap data suggests that it could take an average of 200 years before the gender pay gap is closed.

De Rojas says she doesn’t not want to be having the same discussions around diversity in tech “in 10 years, let alone 200”.

As the pandemic has accelerated the use of technology, de Rojas claims more should be done to ensure unrepresented groups in the tech sector have an opportunity to “have their voices at the table” to ensure an equitable technology sector and society going forward.

Addressing the lack of women in the technology sector has previously been cited as a way to close the industry’s skills gap, and de Rojas says organisations could “future proof” against a lack of skills by focusing on hiring diverse talent.

Younger people disproportionately lost jobs during the pandemic, and de Rojas called for a “coordinated effort” to ensure this impact is not long lasting.

But young people are put off by the idea of joining the tech sector, many because the technology sector is not diverse, with fewer opportunities for women, and some say they are actively discouraged from tech because of a lack of role models – people de Rojas points out have not even had a chance to join the sector before deciding to turn their back on it.

Diversity and inclusion will not only be “critical differentiators” for the recovery of firms post pandemic, but will also be the “biggest opportunity for creating competitive advantage”, de Rojas says.

So how can the sector prepare for this change? By pushing people to understand that having digital skills can be a “facilitator” for jobs both in and outside the tech sector as tech becomes such a huge part of life, says de Rojas, as well as work on “cross pollination” between technology and other careers.

This will obviously take a concerted effort between the government, education providers and industry to ensure everyone has the skills needed for a digital future, a challenge when taking into account how fast digital is growing.

Over the next 10 years, de Rojas says leaders should work to better understand the needs of their workforces, become better leaders, and focus on upskilling their workforces to keep skills current.

“We should reskill ourselves every five years or less,” she says, as well as work to prepare young people of all ages for the jobs of the near future.

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