Tech UK: Looking at the Cloud Skills Gap

In a guest blog for Tech UK, Access Partnership's Public Policy Director Matthew McDermott tackles the cloud skills gap by looking to UK digital strategy.

Organisations of all size across the UK are increasingly adopting cloud as they recognise the transformative possibilities it creates. For many it is the driving force for the fourth industrial revolution, but for all it allows previously impossible scalability and cost-saving. Cloud is redefining the way businesses engage with their customers, empower their employees, optimise their business processes, and create entirely new products and services.

As organisations are waking up to the value of cloud, it is accelerating the demand for cloud skills across the economy. While job hunters with technical skills in areas such as machine learning, security, and cloud integration are more in demand than ever before, the shortage of these skills not only means vacancies go unfilled, but companies are unable to take advantage of the benefits offered by cloud.

The Government’s Digital Strategy offers some useful pointers on how to address the skills gap, but it also recognises that government does not have all the answers and the importance of working with business. In addition, diversity and inclusivity are key if we are to ensure that the opportunities of cloud are felt by all members of society, and that all available talent is tapped into. Those of us already in work should not rest on our laurels. As cloud becomes ubiquitous there will be a need for cloud skills in all jobs, meaning a robust reskilling strategy is as important as the pipeline for training those joining the jobs market.

UK Digital Strategy

In its 2017 Digital Strategy, the UK Government recognised that individuals, businesses, and government must all take immediate steps to ensure the UK has the skilled and capable workforce needed in the cloud age. It looks at imbedding digital skills, including cloud skills, in the earliest forms of education, including at primary and secondary schools. There is also a recognition that there also needs to be a focus on more specialist skills, with government taking steps to reform the technical education system.

Government cannot provide all the answers, and the strategy aims to build links with business to support training. In the Digital Skills Partnership, public, private and charity sector organisations are brought together to boost skills for a world-leading, inclusive digital economy. The Partnership will also examine options for improving the coherence of digital skills provision. For example, by setting ambitions for increasing the level of certain types of training on offer and agreeing how it can be targeted where it is needed most. This level of flexibility is crucial if the Partnership is to be responsive to the changing need for cloud skills as technology evolution changes which skills are most in demand.

Inclusivity and Diversity

There is also a growing awareness that the lack of diversity in the uptake of digital skills holds the UK back from addressing the cloud skills gap. To help support more women developing digital skills the Government set up the Tech Talent Charter. It outlines key measures that encourage organisations to think differently and attract more women into the sector to create more diversity in the availability of cloud skills.

Improving cloud skills from women and other underrepresented groups is not simply sign of good corporate responsibility. There is a growing awareness that AI and machine learning are shaped by the inherent biases of the developers building the product. By diversifying the cloud skills base, companies are more likely to build products that understand and add value to the lives of UK citizens, and minimise the risk of unforeseen negative outcomes.

Future of Work?

The rapid pace of technological change means digital techniques and technologies are constantly evolving. Many of us currently in work will need to make sure we regularly refresh our skills to remain relevant on the jobs market. Across society, a focus on lifelong learning should mean that the approach to digital skills mirrors the approach for adult literacy and numeracy training. Only if the building blocks for reskilling are put in place now can we ensure that the UK has the workforce it needs to meet the demand for digital skills and close the cloud skills gap.

 

Author: Matthew McDermott, Director for Public Policy EMEA

The article was originally published in Tech UK on 25 September 2018.

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