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How to build a diverse and skilled tech workforce

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

In an era of rapid technological advancement, the tech industry leads in innovation and growth. Here, Sheila Flavell CBE, COO of FDM Group, discusses the importance of diversity, inclusion, and social mobility in shaping the future of tech talent.

SHEILA FLAVELL CBE IS THE COO FOR FDM GROUP AND IS PASSIONATE ABOUT DIGITAL SKILLS AND DIVERSITY.

Sheila Flavell CBE, Chief Operating Officer for FDM Group

Sheila has over 31 years experience in the global tech sector. She played an integral role in FDM’s flotation on AIM in 2005 and was a key instigator of the management buy-out of the Group in 2010 and the subsequent listing onto the main FTSE Market in 2014. Sheila’s knowledge of the sector has been crucial in driving FDM’s global expansion programme, taking them into the FTSE250.

She spearheads the ‘Global Women in Tech’ campaign and created FDM’s hugely successful Returners Programme. Sheila is President of TechUK and member of the Government’s Digital Skills Council.

In an era defined by rapid technological advancement and evolving workplace dynamics, the tech industry stands at the forefront of growth and innovation.

However, it is crucial to recognise the importance of diversity and inclusion in shaping the future of tech talent and ensuring that underrepresented groups have the opportunities to thrive and grow in the tech sector.

tech workforce

Addressing the Global Skills Gap

The digital skills gap is one of the most concerning issues that the technology industry currently faces, characterised by the disparity between digital skills in the workforce and the current supply of workers with the necessary skills to fill these positions. In fact, techUK reports that 57 percent of UK tech firms believe the current tech talent shortage to be a significant barrier to achieving their growth plans. 

Despite this tech shortage, women make up only 27.2 percent of all professions in the technology sector. Only 5.5 percent of workers in the tech industry in the UK identify as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME). These statistics are shockingly low.

In order to bridge the digital skills gap, organisations must turn to under-utilised pools to create diverse workplaces and increase their range of perspectives, experience and skills.  

Empowering Diversity in Tech

Diversity should be a no-brainer for businesses. Employees should be valued for their own unique talents and potential, giving everyone an opportunity to be successful, no matter their background. Leveraging the full potential of the workforce enhances team performance and adds significant value across the business. A supportive work environment that values all employees increases staff satisfaction and boosts productivity.

In fact, 76 percent of employees and job-seekers say that diversity is a key deciding factor when considering job offers, meaning that fostering a diverse workforce can help businesses tap into top talent. A LinkedIn report showcased that organisations in the top quartile for ethnic diversity have a 36 percent likelihood of financial outperformance with a 2.5x higher cash flow per employee.

But not only that, the McKinsey Diversity Matters report previously revealed that diverse teams have a 39 percent increased likelihood of outperforming their targets than those in the bottom quartile of ethnic representation.

There are a number of ways businesses can improve diversity, equality and inclusion in their organisation, including improving hiring and promotion processes, educating employees and investing in training providers that can help reskill and upskill staff with an aptitude for tech. The crucial aspect for businesses to actually take action is that it makes commercial business sense to employ a diverse workforce.

Digital Skills Training Programmes

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace due to innovations in AI and cyber which require more specialised skill sets, so tech skills training needs to be taken to the next level in order to meet the demands of the ever-evolving landscape. Collaboration between government, industry and educators is essential to adapt the approach to skills training, offering specialised practices to support development in increasingly technical areas.

Through specialised practices, staff can focus on areas such as data analytics and software development where businesses currently lack talent, translating their specific skill sets to highly technical and specialised roles. Specialised practices that provide more comprehensive training can equip employees with more targeted skills to execute on important projects and drive growth for a business.

While traditional education courses like computer science and industry training programmes cover a vast range of digital skills, they often lack the specificity needed to master key roles and new technologies. In fact, 27 percent of UK workers say they lack essential digital skills for their jobs  while three in five have never received training from their employers to improve these skills.

This deficiency often results in businesses struggling to finish highly technical projects highlighting the urgent need for enhanced digital skills development for both businesses and employees.

Providing training not only addresses skill gaps but also demonstrates a commitment to diversity and equips individuals for success in today’s competitive market. Emphasising specialised skills is crucial for business competitiveness, necessitating sourcing from diverse talent pools. This not only cultivates a skilled tech workforce but also fosters long-term growth for businesses.

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