How Employers need to Plan Against the Digital Skills Disaster

The digital skills gap has been a growing threat to employers in the UK.

Referring to both the lack of digital skills in existing workforces, and the shortage of digitally skilled candidates available, in 2019 this gap was estimated to cost the economy £63 billion a year.

In March 2021, a leading think tank warned that the UK is headed towards a “Digital Skills disaster”, with the number of young people choosing IT related subjects at GCSE having dropped by 40% since 2015. Not only are these skills of crucial importance to every economy as our lives become increasingly digital, but experts have also warned that these skills are critical for economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.

With a staggering 76% of firms noting that a lack of digital skills would hit their profitability – what can be done to bridge the digital skills gap, and make the UK workforce ready to face the challenges of the future?

The Digital Skills Gap

Fewer than half of British employers believe young people are leaving full-time education with sufficient advanced digital skills. But this begs the question – if young people aren’t developing these skills before they enter the job market, how can they expect to be successful in their working lives?

As vacancies surge past 1million in the UK, research shows that 2 in 5 employers hire ad hoc and are failing to plan for future staff needs. With the competition for talent ramping up in the wake of the pandemic, it’s now more important than ever for employers to be reviewing their talent acquisition strategy.

That’s not to say that employers need to think only about the channels through which they hire new team members. The most dependable, long-term solution to skills gaps lies across multiple provisions.

Identifying Your Skills gaps

The first step for any organisation, is to identify where their skills gaps lie. From there, it’s a much simpler path to expand your talent acquisition and upskilling for new and existing staff.

The shift to a digital way of business for most employers across the pandemic puts pressure and focus on IT infrastructure, particularly with supporting remote employees in mind.

Many organisations found that their websites became an even more important resource for customers and clients. So naturally there was some focus on development, both in building new pages and functions, as well as maintaining existing features.

For employers, the long-term strategy needs to be just that – long-term. Short-term success won’t mean much when your organisation is faced with further skills shortages a year or two down the line. By planning ahead and considering all the options available to you, and how each can be used in synergy with each other, you can reimagine your company’s approach to talent and build a renewable skills pipeline.

Bridging Your Skills Gaps


Regarded as one of the government’s key responses to the Skills Crisis, apprenticeships offer employers the ability to use of their apprenticeship levy funding to bring in new talent, and upskill their existing team members.

With pathways covering a broad mix of the most in demand skills, apprenticeships are not only a way of bringing in desired talent, but also of building a structure around the future of that team. For example, an IT team with several senior members can benefit from bringing in a Level 3 Information Communications Technician apprentice, both to upskill the existing team with exposure to mentoring and training, and by giving the apprentice a clear progression path into future roles within the company.

Skills Bootcamps

Recently expanded after a successful trial in the North of England, Skills Bootcamps are part of the government’s Plan for Jobs, with the aim of tackling some of the more abundant skills gaps. Our Skills Bootcamps in Software Development give foundational skills across development, as well an opportunity for applicants from varied backgrounds to gain in-demand skills and start a promising career in a growing field.

These are delivered as a 12-week intensive bootcamp, with employers able to enrol their existing staff, or recruit from a pool of entry-level candidates and career changes. Learners can progress straight into a development role or choose to further their studies with a more advanced Level 4 Software Developer apprenticeship.

Commercial Training

For the more technical or niche skill demands, commercial training may be the most efficient solution for many employers. This path typically means that the required knowledge can be learnt and deployed as quickly as possible, giving it a clear advantage over more long form upskilling.

Another benefit to this format is the broad range of knowledge available – everything from Microsoft SQL Server to Project Management Qualifications, meaning that every organisation will be able to find skills they need.

Hiring New Talent

While the hiring market is extremely competitive, there are some roles that simply must be filled with the right talent. Senior roles across in demand fields like IT Security can’t be filled with any sort of compromise, so for these you’ll need to look for specialist recruitment services that know the field well.

A specialist recruiter will always have a head start even in a talent short market, not only for their existing relationships with top talent, but also because of their keen understanding of a candidate’s expectations. As candidates have a stronger negotiating position than ever given the number of opportunities available to them, this is even more crucial.

On October 7th we’re hosting a free live webinar, to help employers identify their Digital Skills Gaps, and build towards bridging them in 2021 and beyond. Join us for “Bridging the IT Digital Skills Gap” 7th October @ 12:30PM.