Is There Really A Skills Shortage And What Should We Do About It?

27th April 2018 - Rachel Green

In this blog by IVE Project Support Office Rachel Green, we ask is there really a skills shortage facing businesses across the Leeds City Region and if so how might stakeholders across the region solve the problem?

Leeds City Region, which incorporates York, West Yorkshire, and the Craven, Harrogate and Selby areas of Yorkshire, has the UK’s largest and fastest growing economy outside of London and the South East. Worth an estimated £64.6 billion, the City Region’s economy generates approximately 5% of the nation’s economic output and employs around 1.9 million people. While Leeds City Region undoubtedly plays a key role in driving both the North’s and indeed the nation’s economic prosperity, the region, much like the rest of the UK, is facing a so-called ‘skills gap.’

Digital Skills Gap

With increasing automation and the proliferation of new readily-available technology in the workplace, digital skills are highly sought after across all sectors. Leeds City Region also has a fast-growing digital technology sector worth £6.6 billion to the UK economy and it employs approximately 102,000 people. Just in Leeds alone there are over 1350 digital companies and the city has the highest number of ‘scale up’ digital companies outside the South East. However, while the digital sector in Leeds and the City Region is thriving, businesses within the sector are struggling to recruit people with the skills that they need.

As the Leeds City Region Employment and Skills Plan 2016-2018 highlights, there are a number of specific skill gaps within the sector, including coding and programming skills software development skills and data analysis skills. The digital skills gap in Leeds City Region is also emblematic of a wider digital skills shortage that is affecting the whole of the UK. As numerous studies, including a recent article by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) highlight, companies across the UK are facing a shortage of digital skills in their workforce which is having a negative effect on productivity. The BCC found that more than three-in-four businesses are facing a shortage of digital skills in their workforce, with 52% reporting a slight shortage, 21% a significant one and 3% a critical shortage.

If the Leeds City Region is to continue to attract high-profile businesses into the area, such as Channel 4, which is reportedly considering relocating to the region, we must ensure that we have a job ready, skilled workforce in place to meet the growing demands of an ever-growing digital sector.

Creative Skills Gap

In a Computer Science Class Boy Wearing Virtual Reality Headset Works on a Programing Project.

With the digital revolution in full swing, and with new technological developments like automation and artificial intelligence rapidly encroaching into the global workplace, the demand for creative and technical skills is higher than ever. Indeed, as a 2017 report by the think tank Future Advocacy revealed, one fifth of jobs throughout the UK are at risk of automation by 2030, with jobs in the UK’s former industrial heartlands in the Midlands and the North of England being most at risk.

If we are to ensure a career for ourselves which remains safe from the risk of automation, we need to acquire and develop skills that cannot be replicated by a computer. This is where creativity comes in. By acquiring and developing a range of creative skills, such as divergent thinking and creative problem-solving, as well as sector-specific skills within the creative and cultural industries, including design, production and direction, we can future-proof ourselves in this age of digital disruption. This is also why businesses need to begin to take creativity more seriously. In the business world creativity is synonymous with innovation and we all know that innovation is crucial to a business’s long-term success in a fast-changing and increasingly unpredictable market.

What Can Be Done?

So, how do we ensure that businesses are able to adapt to this so-called digital revolution and how do we skill and up-skill the region’s workforce to fit the needs of an ever-changing job market? Solutions to this issue could include:

Finally, we need to take creativity more seriously. Here at IVE, creativity is at the heart of everything we do, be it making sure that young people from all backgrounds have the chance to experience high quality arts and culture, by developing creative pre-employment programmes to equip young people with the skills needed to thrive in an unpredictable job market, or by teaching creativity as a transferable skill to improve productivity for businesses across all sectors. As my colleague Adam Halls, Sales and Marketing Manager at IVE, highlighted in his blog post, 3 Myths About Creativity and Why They’re Hurting Your Business, without creativity, nothing new would ever get done. We need to dispel the myths surrounding creativity and exploit the power creativity has to generate new, innovative ideas and products.

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