Article by Eliza Dickie, Data Analyst, Grayce

Two Female College Students Building Machine In Science Robotics Or Engineering ClassResearch recently published by the Learning & Work Institute revealed that 60% of UK businesses believe their reliance on advanced digital skills will increase over the next five years and under half (48%) of UK employers believe that young people leave full-time education with sufficient advanced digital skills.

This growing crisis has been further exacerbated by the pandemic, which rapidly accelerated the pace of digital transformation and left an increasing chasm between the current supply of tech talent and the demand by businesses.

Bridging this divide relies on developing talented and digitally native Generation Z workers by equipping them with the qualifications and credentials they need to break into high-skilled jobs. But there’s one demographic in particular that remains key to helping to narrow the gap. According to the latest figures, just 26% of UK graduates with core STEM degrees are female. This figure is also translated in the female STEM workforce, with women making up 24%.

Fixing the ‘leaky pipeline’ to drive economic recovery

The pandemic has brought to light the urgent need for gender equality in the tech industry. Efforts have been made to address the imbalance – and we are starting to see a shift – however, the imbalance does still exist in STEM fields. There are a number of cultural reasons for this, which has been dubbed ‘the leaky pipeline’ effect – when women become underrepresented minorities in STEM fields because many ‘leak’ out into alternative career paths to juggle work and family life.

Equal labour market opportunities and striving for gender balance in the tech sector are not only a matter of integrity for the talented women and girls choosing STEM paths, they could also help unlock the UK’s economic recovery. With the critical shortage of relevant skills clearly threatening the UK economy’s ability to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, business leaders believe that further investment in digital skills is critical.

The tech sector in the UK has seen 40% growth over the past two years, and to avoid a talent shortage as companies continue to build their workforces and invest in digital skills development, young women must have access to the right training and reskilling opportunities. Further investment should be made into giving them access to the support and training necessary for successful careers in tech, which in turn, would also help advance economic mobility. By reassuring girls that STEM subjects are valuable and desired in the future job market, they will become more confident in pursuing STEM careers, which would help ensure a steady flow on digital talent into the industry and a narrowing of the skills gap.

Supporting emerging talent is imperative

Recently, a group of London businesses called on Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, to tackle the capital’s skills shortage, warning that its recovery from the pandemic was on the line. This has highlighted a debate around whether businesses should be looking further afield to hire employees from around the world to work for them remotely. While tapping into international experts could be beneficial, there is a pool of young talent here in the UK that should be utilised and that would also help reduce unemployment.

There is no doubt that economic recovery relies on the digital skills gap being narrowed and the emerging workforce being better utilised. With many young graduates struggling in the current job market, who are eager to learn and train, more should be done to support them. Educating and equipping young people with digital skills and placing an emphasis on encouraging young women to pursue STEM careers are essential steps for the future of the UK economy.

About the author

Eliza Dickie is a Data Analyst at Grayce in her first year of training on the Data+ Programme. She has been assigned to a project at investment management firm, M&G, and is currently working in a data engineering, data science and data analytics role. She has taken some Azure data qualifications to improve her knowledge around data engineering and is also participating in several courses provided by Grayce, such as data cross linking to develop her skills.