Employers join forces to take action on UK Digital Skills

Addressing the gender imbalance, improving access to apprenticeships and innovation in in-work learning were key priorities identified by employers at the recent UK Digital Skills Action workshop.

Employers of diverse sectors, sizes and geographies came together in March to discuss the pressing issues facing all who rely on digital skills – and, most importantly, to decide what to do about them. Many commented on the value of this unique environment, where they could build trusted connections across industry and actively collaborate, sharing challenges, insights and solutions.

Thought provoking insights were offered on topics ranging from diversity and inclusion to recruitment, regional and sectoral imbalances, continuing professional development and ‘job ready’ skills.

Opening up opportunity for all is a key priority for many, and addressing the woefully low proportion of females in tech at every stage from schools through to the professional workforce was identified as a top priority. A working group to lead action on this will be considering how AI could make a step change in outreach and showcasing the huge range of tech careers, amongst other ideas.

Another group explored the dichotomy that while some employers are hugely oversubscribed for their apprenticeship programmes, others struggle to get a good number of high-quality applicants. This was seen to be a particular problem for smaller companies or those offering digital apprenticeships outside of the tech industry itself. An innovative idea is being pursued on interorganisational collaboration to help address this.

New approaches to embedding a very necessary culture of continual learning exercised the minds of a third group, as they reflected on the fact that the traditional approach of asking staff to allocate specific time to upskilling is too often unsuccessful.  New approaches to embedding learning within work itself were shared, and a group formed to identify and disseminate fresh and engaging practices.

Participants also gained much from sharing experiences on a wide range of other skills topics, such as programmes to support career changers, the re-engineering of recruitment for skills rather than qualifications, and building deeper relationships between industry and students.

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