Tech City UK noted how when it comes to technology SMEs and startups, the regions are thriving – and it’s not just London is enjoying growth. Around three quarters of these companies and 85 per cent of the workforce are outside the capital. Bournemouth and Liverpool are moving ahead of London in the digital race. Nearly 1.5m people, around 7.5 per cent of the UK workforce are now working in the digital sector, many of them with small companies.
Good news? Not completely.
The report, called Tech Nation and covered in greater detail in an earlier Real Business article, concluded that a growing digital skills gap on a national level is emerging. This means that tech businesses are struggling to recruit skilled candidates at the pace they need to fill an ever-increasing number of roles. Investing in digital skills has never been more important, believes Howard Simms, co-founder and director at mobile application developer, Apadmi.
“While all this buzz around the tech sector is fantastic, we must consider a number of issues if we are to support growth – not least the fact that our current school curriculum isn’t doing enough to teach digital skills from an early age,” he added. “And we’re not the only ones with these concerns.” He pointed to a recent report from the House of Lords’ digital skills select committee, which recommended that digital skills should be taught as a core subject in schools, along with the likes of English and Maths.
“The digital sector is going to be an increasingly important contributor to the UK economy and we now need an army of professionals to support growth,” urged Simms. “The complex array of skills and specialisms required in this industry is vast and what we need now is a strategy focusing on turning these big plans into tangible results; investment into bright, young, creative individuals is crucial.”
He believes that the country needs to start with the basics, from school level upwards. “We must put a higher emphasis on teaching digital skills from an early age – developing and nurturing talent and encouraging youths to pursue careers in the digital sector,” he said. “Understandably, as digital is still relatively new, it has taken time for the education system to implement courses that will properly benefit students and mould them into skilled professionals. Digital courses at our schools, colleges and universities should now be right up there with other primary degree choices.”
Apadmi now ranks within the top ten app developers globally. It has worked on the BBC iPlayer Radio App and the Guardian Witness App. Other names that it has worked with include the X Factor, BT, Aviva, Skyscanner, EE, AstraZeneca and Lexus.
Read more about technology in the UK:
- War of the Tech Cities: IT skills in demand across UK beyond London tech hub
- London top for startups, but has Berlin nipping at heels
- How far has UK come to close the gap on the US tech ecosystem?
Now Simms is putting his money – and his own small technology business – where his mouth is. Apadmi has developed a course that it calls App in a Day. It teaches students to build a fully functional app in four hours, using MacBooks, iPhones and industry-standard software. The course is provided in school for students or alternatively as a CPD option to licence teachers to deliver the course themselves.
“Existing digital businesses should be offering apprenticeship programmes and training to provide those who are passionate about a career in this field with the opportunity to learn on the job,” commented Simms. “The entrepreneurial ways, typical of many SMEs, mean most are already great at adopting new trends and implementing the latest processes and technologies, so can provide a great training ground for the next generation of digital talent to breed. In addition, it’s essential that we’re working hard to find entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas and investing in them to help convert their ideas into successes.”
He finished by telling us: “I have no doubt that by considering these factors, businesses and education bodies alike can work together to really make our digital and tech industries thrive.”
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