Engineer showing equipment to a female apprentice, close up

The value of apprenticeships in creating more diversity and inclusion within the workplace

Engineer showing equipment to a female apprentice, close up

Article by Hannah Boltwood, Client Manager, Reply

In an increasingly digital age, those who are not engaging effectively with the digital world are at risk of being left behind.

Technological change means that digital skills are becoming more important for connecting with others, accessing information and services and meeting the changing demands of the workplace and economy.

I strongly believe that addressing the digital skills gap is essential when it comes to equipping people with the skills they need to live and work in a digital world and ensure everyone can benefit from the opportunities digital innovation and infrastructure investment can bring. Reply’s ultimate goal is that the UK tech sector becomes a diverse and inclusive community where people from all backgrounds are welcomed, listened to and valued for their contributions. However, this starts by addressing the tech ecosystem as a whole and working to find ways to close the digital skills gap.

One way in which we try to help the communities we serve, is by partnering with the Tech Talent Charter (TTC), a non-profit organisation leading a movement to address inequality in the UK tech sector and drive inclusion and diversity in a practical and uniquely measurable way. As an ambassador for the TTC, I am passionate in helping companies to connect with people from skills bootcamps or apprenticeships, for example retraining post university, early career or after career breaks. I believe that apprenticeships can help close the unemployment gap and help to attract people from a wide talent pool which ultimately creates more diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

In fact, research shows that 43% of businesses with more diverse workforces have higher profits – and I believe that apprenticeships are the cornerstone to reaching that talent early!

About the author

Hannah Boltwood is a Client Manager at Reply Limited. She is passionate about bringing cost savings to the public sector through technology solutions, process improvement and stemming value leakage. She is driven by the impact these services have on people’s lives and how her contribution can make a difference.

She began her career as a mainframe programmer at IBM. Hannah has since used her highly analytical skill set to build a reputation for problem solving using both strategic and people skills to deliver transformation and change for her clients. She now runs Reply’s two largest government accounts, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.

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Back behind view photo of programmer lady look big monitor check id-address work overtime check debugging system wear specs casual shirt sit table late night office indoors, coding

National Coding Week 2021 | Bringing women into tech and closing the digital skills gap

Back behind view photo of programmer lady look big monitor check id-address work overtime check debugging system wear specs casual shirt sit table late night office indoors, coding, women in tech

With the swift technological changes we are experiencing today,  there has never been a better time to invest in the digital skills of both children and adults.

This National Coding Week provides the perfect opportunity to draw attention to the importance of developing coding as a skill set and to consider what more we can be doing to actively encourage the younger generation, especially young girls, to engage with coding and STEM.

Svenja de Vos, LeasewebSvenja de Vos, CTO, Leaseweb Global elaborates, “every year National Coding Week provides an opportunity for tech companies to do more to showcase the benefits of a career in software development. You’re never too young or too old to code, and it is important to widen future pools of developers in order to help close the tech skills gap.

“The world needs talented coders and software professionals now more than ever. Especially in the last year and a half, coding has become essential to daily life by allowing organizations to continue business operations in the face of the pandemic. Every single day, software developers come up with innovative apps that are helping to revolutionize a variety of industries. Dedicating a full week to promoting coding will hopefully influence many to further develop their skill”.

The digital skills gap 

One of the pressing reasons to encourage more people to widen their technical skills is the widening digital skills gap facing the UK. In fact, “less than half of UK employers believe new entrants to the workforce have the digital-skills required”, explains Ian Rawlings, Regional VP at SumTotal Systems. He continues, “this needs to change if the UK is to plug the existing skills gap and become a leader in technology. From mandatory coding teaching in schools, to initiatives such as Code First and the Institute of Coding, there are so many ways to develop digital skills early on and show candidates all the benefits that coding has to offer.

“Building and developing digital skills within the current workforce will also be key as the pandemic continues to accelerate the pace of digital transformation. This National Coding Week, with coding fluency growing in both value and necessity, lifelong learning remains integral in future-proofing the workforce and closing the skills gap”.

Simon Gould, Chief Product Officer, Totalmobile shares this sentiment, pointing out that “it’s important to reflect on how we can encourage both experienced employees and the younger generation to broaden their skillsets, simultaneously enhancing their own employability and closing the digital skills gap. It’s an area that resonates strongly given the interesting and varied career that has evolved since that first development role.

“Organisations, in particular, should consider what they can do to encourage the whole spectrum of gender, ethnicity and social demographic backgrounds. Many businesses can set examples by engaging in initiatives in schools and places of work to show a wide range of students what a career in tech could look like, such as Women Who Code, which a number of our staff are passionately involved in. Getting female developers, engineers and senior leaders to talk to young women and girls about their jobs and highlighting that tech can be exciting and engaging is hugely powerful. It’s an approach I see first-hand, with my daughter studying computer science at GCSE. That small acorn that grows into a passion”.

Bringing women into the tech world 

In spite of the concern surrounding the digital skills gap, there is much to be optimistic about for the future of tech. In particular, as Gould highlighted, there are many organisations placing a much-needed emphasis on inspiring young women to get involved in coding and other digital skills.

Debra Danielson_, Digital Guardian“Currently, only 14% of programmers and software developers in the UK are women, a daunting statistic that must change if we are to move forward as an industry”, Debra Danielson, CTO and SVP Engineering at Digital Guardian notes.

“Increased mentorship is one way forward for diversity. As a woman working in technology, I can say that, outside of my own dogged stubbornness, my opportunities have stemmed from having a single person willing to advocate for me. That helped me break through some of the lazy stereotypes about women in STEM… being perceived to be less technical, less mathematical than men. Our allies, supporters and advocates can help open the door, and we need vocal colleagues and managers willing to give women chances and support us on our journeys.

“Recognising the dearth of diversity in the industry, I’m passionate about increasing the participation and impact of both women and underrepresented communities in technology. I volunteer at many levels, from Tech Girls Rock (secondary school girls learning to code) to coaching and mentoring tech founders on how to access capital. We must create more space for women within the industry. National Coding Week is the perfect opportunity for leaders to connect with their teams and help women boost their skills and advance their careers.”

Angela Garland_Content GuruAngela Garland, Escalations Engineer at Content Guru, seconds this statement, “science has always made sense to me – I like the certainty of it – and I knew that’s what I wanted to do from an early age. I was raised in an engineering household and lucky enough to go to a school that encouraged girls to take GCSE and A-Level science – but then again, it was an all-girls school! We had plenty of female science teachers and role models supporting us. Sadly, I don’t think this is typical of the education system. By the time I reached university, our mechanical engineering bachelors was just 10% female. This has to change.

“We need to do much more to encourage young girls with a passion for science, coding and technology to study STEM courses – both at younger school ages and further on into higher education – and to pursue careers in these exciting and rewarding fields. The stark gender divide means it’s often challenging for women working as engineers – from application engineers to mechanical engineers and cybersecurity engineers, women are almost always in the minority.

“My advice to women embarking on a career in technology is to keep pushing and challenging at every opportunity. The most important thing is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, speak up in large groups of men and put your ideas out there. Find an organisation that puts everyone – regardless of gender – on an equal playing field and pushes you into a role where you challenge yourself and those around you”.

National Coding Week is vitally important for anyone working in or around the tech scene. Not only does it open the conversation about topics such as the digital skills gap, or women in tech, but coding is such an essential skill in today’s age it is always a good idea to reiterate its importance.

Jeff KeyesJeff Keyes, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy, Plutora concludes, “Written code has become the foundation of every organisation, no matter the size, in a rapidly and constantly changing software landscape. A skilled team of coders is imperative to not only building that foundation, but also to put businesses in the best possible position to thrive. Coding has become much more than just the developer language of tech. It’s the language of business and in turn, the language of success.”

Portrait of mature architect woman at a construction site. Building, development, teamwork and people concept featured

With the right skills, women can play a significant role in the fourth industrial revolution

Portrait of mature architect woman at a construction site. Building, development, teamwork and people concept.Article by Saranjit Sangar, EMEA CEO at upGrad

The UK has a shortage of digital skills. The gap between demand and supply is continuing to widen as more young people move away from studying IT subjects.

According to a recent study from the Learning & Work Institute, the number of young people taking IT subjects at GCSE has dropped 40% since 2016, which its experts fear may impact the UK’s economic recovery.

This decline is at odds with the rapid pace of the UK’s digital transformation which has only accelerated as a result of the seismic shift in ways of working during the pandemic. It is predicted this will result in the creation of 150 million technology jobs in the next five years (LinkedIn) as we head towards a fourth industrial revolution.

And these jobs won’t be confined to technology companies alone, but businesses operating in every sector. As more companies focus on growing their digital offers, we will see the emergence of more industry buzzwords – fintech, healthtech, agritech, edtech – as technology becomes central to everyday business operations.

To service these new jobs, there is a serious need for digital upskilling in the UK, and indeed this is one of the main reasons why we at upGrad have chosen to focus our efforts on helping to close the skills gap. This poses both a challenge and opportunity.

The challenge is for businesses and individuals to keep up with the pace of change by learning new skills, many of which have only evolved in the last decade or so in areas such as AI, cloud and robotics. Global professional services firm Accenture has noted a huge increase in demand in the UK, with robotics jobs up 115% in Liverpool, 253% in Leeds and 450% in Newcastle.

With a limited number of skilled workers to fill such positions, there is a big opportunity for more women to make inroads in STEM-based careers. This is exactly the reason why upGrad provides an industry-ready curriculum that helps students to obtain the skills needed to excel in high-growth industries such as software and tech, machine learning and data science.

Currently young women account for just 22% of GCSE entrants in IT subjects, 17% of A-level entrants, 23% of apprenticeships and 16% of undergraduates (Learning & Work Institute). Similarly, data from 2020 shows that women comprise just 24% of the core-STEM workforce (WISE), representing huge scope for growth.

However, the growth in the number of women in boardrooms shows that, with the right skills, it is possible to drive rapid improvement. A third of board members are now female, compared to 12.5% in 2010 (WISE).

And building the right digital skills to forge a successful career doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch – unless you want to, of course! Put simply, it’s about connecting the dots – ensuring you have the right experience at the right time to meet your career goals.

For instance, if your company is investing in new technology for the first time, ask to be trained on how to use it. Read through descriptions of job roles that appeal to you to see if there are any gaps in your digital skills and training which you could proactively address. You can even create your own opportunities by training in your spare time. There are many education providers, such as upGrad, which offer the opportunity to “earn and learn” with flexible courses you can take at a time that suits your schedule.

In taking a more proactive role to upskilling and lifelong learning, especially when it comes to digital skills, more women will be empowered to unlock a new range of job opportunities in the tech space that are theirs for the taking.

Saranjit Sangar featuredAbout the author

Saranjit Sangar is EMEA CEO at online higher education company, upGrad. Saranjit is an experienced leader with a diverse international career across e-commerce (Amazon, UK), last-mile logistics (Amazon, UK, and Honestbee, Singapore), cloud kitchens (Grab, Singapore) & FMCG (Godrej, India). She has a successful track record of building and scaling businesses, growing teams, and creating value for customers and partners for more than a decade.


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Dawn McGruer Keyboard, digital skills gap featured

Tackling the digital skills gap

Dawn McGruer Keyboard

Article provided by tech though-leader and author, Dawn McGruer

As a businesswoman with a background in programming, I’m very interested in technology as a whole but in particular, I have a passion around helping businesses and brands shine online.

Although we have seen massive growth in the use of digital marketing within business and budgets allocated towards online activities it is extremely disheartening to see that we face a worldwide digital skills gap.

The Office of National Statistics is reporting that we will have almost 750,000 jobs unfilled if we don’t focus on up-skilling and developing digital talent but this isn’t just focusing on the youth of today but also developing digital skills in current marketing roles.

There is a vast amount of expertise available in terms of business development and sales and marketing but we must not neglect our workforce who perhaps may feel slightly daunted and overwhelmed by the fast-paced, ever-evolving world of digital. Even now many marketing degrees contain little focus around digital marketing and this is indeed due to a lack of digital talent in lecturers not just in business.

Digital Managers and Directors who are not necessarily involved at a practitioner level still need a clear understanding of the latest trends, tips, techniques and tools available to be able to advise and lead teams at a strategic level.

If we consider that only about 20 per cent of tech jobs are held by women this just highlights the need for positive tech role models and inspiring leaders in digital so we can move towards a digitally empowered nation that can reap amazing results in an economic climate that perhaps feel a little uncertain right now.

The emergence of amazing qualifications focused towards real-world business marketing has been a welcome addition such as the CIM Digital Diploma in Professional Marketing and we see students excelling in the digital arena even before graduation because often they are confirming what has been self-taught which is a massive boost to confidence but also they are confident they have the latest knowledge and proven strategies to drive their businesses forward.

As much as there needs to be a focus on recruiting more women into the tech sector there also needs to be recognition around equality of pay. There is a gender pay gap across most sectors but we are seeing differences as much as £20,000 for the same role which is just astonishing in this day and age.

So as a whole there needs to be a shift in the way we retain and recruit new talent. As digital marketing is such an essential skill in business today an investment into schools to encompass digital in the syllabus and forge a clear career pathway into the world of digital. The average salary for a digital marketer is £38K and dramatically rises to £50K + with experience and being qualified.

I have recently designed a curriculum used in one of the UK’s biggest apprenticeship providers, Just IT which is geared towards not only upskilling apprentices but guaranteeing an actual paid job to progress their careers.

This is a fantastic tip forward and for those interested in tech or who have a more creative flair these types of business placed learning routes are exactly what is required to help bridge this epic digital skills gap we face.

I am also a big advocate of continuous professional development programmes so the fact that the world’s largest institute – The Chartered Institute of Marketing offers progression through encouraging on-going learning through their study centres.

For instance our Academy, Business Consort has trained and certified round 25,000 professional in digital and social media marketing but their journey doesn’t stop at graduation because they can work towards the highest accolade in marketing – chartered Marketer status through investing time in up-skilling every year. The CIM CPD programme is free for members and should be advocated by employers to ensure they not only have a happy skilled workforce that achieves great results but they having cutting-edge knowledge to adapt to the business environment and technology advancements.