The UK digital skills gap is nothing new – public and private sector organisations have been struggling to find people with the right talents to drive their digital transformation initiatives for the last few years if not longer.
The shortage of expertise is particularly acute in the field of cyber security. Just as in 2016, UK companies are expected to invest heavily in upgrading their existing systems this year as they look to provide better protection against cyber attacks, data losses and incidents of unauthorised system.
A recent estimate from the Tech Partnership suggests already as many as 58,000 cyber security specialists working in the UK, but the number is nowhere near enough. Research conducted by job site Indeed published last month estimates that the number of cyber security roles currently vacant in the UK is the third highest globally. And the gap between supply and demand for competent candidates is continuing to grow whereas other European countries – including France, Germany and Ireland – are manage to close it as they successfully recruit more expertise into the area.
Both industry and government knows the country has a problem, and have tabled various approaches to fix it. The national cyber security strategy (NCSS) launched last year promises £1.9bn of public sector investment in beefing up Britain’s cyber security defences over the next five years for example, some of which should fund the teaching of more cyber security related skills in Britain’s schools, colleges and universities.
Apprenticeships will also play their part, with 23 cyber security roles in critical national infrastructure (CNI) posted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in February reputedly attracting 1,250 candidates. The plan is to swell the number of those apprenticeships to 1,000 by 2021. How much the extra numbers will help to close the widening skills gap remains to be seen however, and there is a real danger that Britain’s digital progression could be handicapped in the meantime.