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Five ways for CTOs to tackle the digital skills crisis

As as many CTOs and CIOs will be more than aware, the UK is facing a serious digital skills gap. From inadequate equipment in schools and a shortage of appropriately qualified computer science teachers to an estimated 12.6 million British adults who lack even basic digital skills, the gap can lead to serious headaches for businesses who want to stay ahead of the global curve.

A 2016 report by the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee appealed to businesses to do their bit by investing more in IT education at all levels. As many organisations struggle to fill key posts with qualified candidates, there are plenty of other measures your organisation can take to boost IT literacy on a company and national level:

Continuous learning

With such demand for decent IT staff, holding onto promising talent is more challenging than ever before. Ensuring you give your valued employees interesting projects to work on as well as offering regular, bespoke training identified through regular performance reviews can encourage them to stay put.

Recruit more broadly

As many a successful IT recruiter will confirm, it pays to look beyond IT just graduates when looking to recruit talent. Look out for hackathon competitors, self-taught programmers and developers using low-code development platforms to come up with innovative IT solutions. Any of them could have the necessary skills and enthusiasm to complement a more traditionally trained IT team.

Tackle the glass ceiling

The decreasing proportion of women in tech positions in the UK should concern any CTO worth their salt. Research has repeatedly shown that more diverse businesses tend to see better financial returns, but still less than 17 percent of the UK’s STEM workforce was made up of women as of 2016. Positive actions include: actively going into schools and encouraging young women to think seriously about tech career paths, ensuring women can re-enter the workforce at the same level after breaks and implementing a respectful and inclusive workplace culture.

Join forces with an academic institution

Companies who invest at school and university level education programs now can reap the rewards for years to come. Even if you can’t follow in Rackdoor or IBM’s footsteps by setting up your own academy or offering additional training to secondary school age children, there are still productive steps you can take. Simply opening a communication with a local state school about their curriculum can give you the chance to offer suggestions on ways to improve it, for example.

In-house training

While designing organisation-specific training, from internships to mentoring programs, might involve time and effort, the advantages are enormous. You can provide bespoke programs not available elsewhere that will benefit your company directly, as well as more broadly applicable IT skills.