UK employers face a growing shortage of graduates in areas like cybersecurity, AI and robotics as demand for tech products and services soars to highs not seen in a decade.
In the first five months of 2022 alone, there were 870,000 tech and digital jobs unfilled in the UK–plus most of the rest of the workforce needs training to meet the needs of a digitised workplace. The World Economic Forum predicts that 42% of jobs will need reskilling or upskilling.
The potential obstacles for businesses are huge – particularly in the key areas of AI, robotics, automation and cybersecurity. Demand for cybersecurity professionals has shot up by 60% in the past year after the pandemic rush to go digital left many companies vulnerable to hackers.
What can graduates earn in top tech fields?
- Robotics: £31,000 at entry level, rising to £58,500 with experience
- Cybersecurity: £35,000 at entry level, rising to £70,000
- AI: £45,000 at entry level, rising to £70,000+
The lack of UK graduates considering technical careers often drives employers to recruit job seekers from overseas. Industry and universities need to make young people aware that tech careers offer them a secure and rewarding future.
So how can we encourage more young people to follow this path? One initiative that could help is the National AI Strategy recently launched by the Government, which aims to turn the UK into a global leader in AI by 2030. Ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak also recently earmarked £34 million to fund 2,000 scholarships for AI and data science MSc conversion courses for disadvantaged students.
But despite these positive changes, more needs to be done to meet the increasing demand for practical technical skills. Diversity and inclusion are now vital to the UK’s future–we need people from every demographic to fill the gap, which means the entire system of education, training and onboarding in the tech sector needs urgent review.
As the application of roles associated with cybersecurity, AI and robotics expands, opportunities are opening up for the industry to take a more joined-up approach to the problem, bringing a wide range of stakeholders and professions together to develop practical solutions. One idea could be to encourage graduates and academics to take part-time roles in tech companies that would enable knowledge-sharing on both sides.
More universities also need to commit to offering genuinely co-designed courses that map onto current job roles and prepare students for a rapidly changing business world. This too will call for collaboration between academia, industry and the government. Because the roles needed are so specialised, more investment and targeted training are needed to enable UK industry to make the most of the tech boom.