Leaders from tech giants Microsoft, Salesforce, Amazon and BT have come together with the Institute of Coding (IoC) to urge the Chancellor to urgently enhance the UK's digital skills. The aim is to address the current digital skills gap in preparation for the green digital jobs of the future.
The consortium of business leaders and academics collectively penned an open letter, published in The Times, imploring the Chancellor to address regional inequalities and prioritise digital skill development. The call is to improve the requisite digital expertise for the increasing number of tech vacancies and green jobs; these skills are vital for supporting the country's move towards net zero emissions.
The IoC, a national group of educators and employers overseen by the University of Bath, has taken the lead on these calls. The institute has supported over one million learners by providing free, hybrid digital skills programs. Most of these learners come from under-represented or low-income backgrounds, not only addressing the tech skills gap but also promoting social mobility.
Significant figures in the tech industry have backed these efforts, including Clare Barclay, the CEO of Microsoft UK; Zahra Bahrololoumi, the CEO of Salesforce UK and Ireland; and Julian David, the CEO of TechUK. Support for the skills initiative also spans political boundaries, with backing from former Labour schools minister Lord Jim Knight and former Conservative energy minister Baroness Sandip Verma.
The urgency for digital skills enhancement comes amid growing concern over the UK's capability to fill the increasing number of tech roles. Current figures suggest an estimated 870,000 tech vacancies across the UK. Additionally, one in five Brits reportedly feel left behind in the digital world.
The letter also highlights the importance of promoting lifelong learning and increasing opportunities for older people. Current data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that there are 3.6 million economically inactive individuals over the age of 50 in the UK. The call to action urges all stages of life to have access to fulfilling, flexible learning opportunities and careers.
Professor Rachid Hourizi, MBE, the Director of the Institute of Coding, expresses pride in contributing to the advancement of the digital skills agenda. Before the Autumn Budget on Wednesday, he emphasised the opportunity for the Chancellor to outline a strategic plan that supports British tech talent and facilitates the development of skills nationwide. The focus is on urging the government to prioritise and invest in the growth of digital skills across the UK population.
Professor Rachid Hourizi said, "We're proud to be helping move the digital skills agenda forward, ahead of Wednesday's Autumn Budget, highlight the opportunity for the Chancellor to set out a plan that backs British tech talent and allows us to develop the skills of everyone across the UK."
Julian David, CEO of techUK, stressed the importance of a collaborative culture of flexible and lifelong learning among educators, industry, and employers: "In order for the UK to unlock its full digital potential."
"We need to foster this collaborative culture. The Autumn Statement provides an opportunity to invest in our people, bridge skill gaps, and ensure that everyone, regardless of age, can contribute to and thrive in the dynamic digital economy."