80 per cent of UK tech start-ups investing in skills to mitigate gaps

With almost half of small businesses surveyed by the Department for Education citing a lack of skilled staff as a concern, investment in this challenge proves widespread among UK tech start-ups

According to a study from the UK Department for Education, 46 per cent of start-ups across the tech industry saw a lack of staff with the right skills, along with hiring difficulties, as their top two concerns for this year.

Growth of start-ups combined with surging digitisation among non-traditional tech firms has contributed to the ongoing skills gap in the UK tech sector, as well as globally.

To mitigate this, government research shows a common goal towards investing in skill development, while the Department for Education is presenting its Join the Skills Revolution campaign, which includes a skills and recruitment barometer report on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across England.

Clare Walsh, director of education at the Institute of Analytics, told the Financial Times: “There’s a skills shortage because the technological change came so fast, before education could respond.

“Very few other professions actually expect people to leave school ready to go into that profession. We [need to] retrain them and reskill them to do a specific job.”

As for hiring challenges, brought in part by a reported shallow pool of suitable talent that larger tech companies like Amazon and Google are also keeping tabs on, start-ups are hoping to hire from the swathes of staff recently laid off across big tech.

In addition, some company leaders are opting to offer tech talent with a share of the company as another way to attract staff, such as e-commerce leader David Connor, who told the FT: “Most [freelancers] wanted £1,500 per day [and] the only way that a bootstrapping start-up like ours with zero funding was able to get a developer in was by offering equity in the company.”

Another challenge cited by UK tech start-ups was planned reductions to R&D tax credits for companies that spend less than 40 per cent on innovation — announced in the recent Budget — which are said to potentially leave companies with smaller hiring and recruitment budgets.

This has reportedly been exacerbated by high-calibre tech talent asking for six-figure salaries, despite the average salary of a UK computer programmer being found by Glassdoor analysis to be over £41,000, sources told the FT.

Similarly, Fujitsu research recently revealed a skills shortage among staff to be a growing concern for tech sector C-Suites — 45 per cent of UK companies expressed belief that their teams were not equipped to utilise advanced technology, while 38 per cent said it was a key barrier to unlocking innovation.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is a senior reporter for Information Age, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.

Related Topics

Skills gap
Tech start-ups