OpenUK, the UK's industry body for open technology, recently published its 'State of Open: The UK in 2023: Phase 3 Skills or Bust' report detailing the current state of open source skills within the country. The report came out before Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement, expected to focus heavily on removing barriers to economic growth.
The revealing report, which focuses on harnessing open source skills to drive UK economic growth, highlights three primary policy areas concerning technology skills. These include the need to fill the gap in UK business skills for commercialising innovation, ensure talent retention that frequently migrates to the US, and to provide necessary training in the right areas of engineering and development.
The 'Skills or Bust' report, in an analysis performed on GitHub reveals the sheer number of opportunities that exist for UK individuals adept in open technology. A staggering 3.2 million GitHub accounts exist in the UK, spread from Lands End to John O'Groats, marking the country as having more GitHub accounts per capita than any other nation.
Contributing to open source technology allows individuals to acquire practical skills in high-demand areas of technology, unlocking employment opportunities in cutting-edge tech regardless of their UK location. The report concludes that open source software, the 'submarine under the Digital Economy', contributed 27% of the UK's tech sector Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2022.
Amanda Brock, CEO of OpenUK, commented on the vast potential inherent in our digital economy, driven by open-source workers across the UK. She encouraged the government to support these contributors, as remote working is a norm in Open Source, leading to many international companies hiring based on skills rather than geography. She said, "With improved connectivity across the UK, this offers employment opportunities to people who hold in-demand skills whether in cities or rural areas."
The 'Skills or Bust' report also highlighted significant figures surrounding the UK's open source community. Over 31,800 UK contributors exist in open source projects, with 8,200 contributors noted in the last 12 months. The last year also saw a 20.7% growth with 1,700 new contributors.
The demand for technology skills and open-source skills in the UK is considerable. The report found that 77% of companies are hunting for programming skills in the UK. Backend developers, cloud engineers, and development operations engineers are the most sought-after roles, making up 51%, 36%, and 32% of recruitment, respectively.
According to the report's insights, three key policy areas are essential to support UK tech sector growth: filling the gap in the UK talent pools business skills, retaining talent frequently lost to the US, and training people in appropriate engineering and dev skills.
Brock underscored the necessity of nurturing and investing in this sector. She stated, "This has the potential to stem the historic talent flight to the US, which has stunted the UK's success. Collaboratively, we can deliver the dream of being the next Silicon Valley."
Konstantin Vinogradov, General Partner at Runa Capital, concurs that the decentralisation of the global tech market, expedited by the pandemic, granted London an extraordinary potential to become the leading global hub for thriving tech companies. However, it requires further effort to nurture and attract talents and capital to the UK shores.