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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