Digital skills bootcamps will play a vital role in bridging the digital skills talent gap

Digital technologies have transformed the way we live and work forever. To compete in this new landscape, businesses need a workforce with the appropriate skills; and so, the UK’s widening digital skills gap represents a real threat to the growth prospects of organisations of all sizes and sectors.

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According to research by WorldSkills UK, 23% of employers say that their current workforce lacks the basic digital skills that they need, rising to over one in three (37%) when concerning advanced digital skills. Further, with regards to recruitment, a 2021 government report revealed that almost half (48%) of UK businesses were recruiting for roles that required hard data skills, but 46% have struggled to find appropriately skilled candidates over the last two years. 

With the pandemic only accentuated this trend due to a significant increase in demand for digital goods and services, it is more important than ever that we must how the skills shortage can be addressed. Clear, practical measures are required and government-funded digital skills bootcamps are one such example. 

What are digital skills bootcamps? 

Digital skills bootcamps, for those not familiar with them, have a vital role to play in enhancing digital skills across the UK, particularly among younger people. 

For example, in recent years, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has piloted over 30 digital bootcamps and trained around 2,000 adults with essential tech skills. In October, WMCA unveiled its next round of bootcamps; £21 million has been made available from the Adult Education Budget to support the new bootcamps over the next three years, with a target of supporting more than 4,000 people.

Free to access, the bootcamps cover all manner of tech-related skillsets: data analytics and data engineering, web development, coding, UI and UX design, cloud computing, digital marketing, and cybersecurity, and more. Importantly, the delivery of the actual training is managed by individual specialist firms, each with expertise in a particular digital field. Government-backed and organised by local authorities, but with input directly from industry leaders across the private, public and third sectors. 

The bootcamps can be used by those in and out of work, helping people to find new roles or achieve more responsibility with their existing employer by improving their digital skills. 

How can businesses and employees benefit?

Crucially, business involvement is equally key to the success of digital skills bootcamps. Public sector oversight and funding and industry-led training guarantee that learners have access to up-to-date digital skills training and support. 

However, business leaders can also benefit significantly by engaging with such courses. They can work alongside regional bootcamps to either reskill and upskill their staff, or provide interview opportunities to people participating in the bootcamps. 

For example, Alisha Hasan was made redundant from her administrative role due to the pandemic. Looking for her next steps and with an interest in technology, Miss Hasan was excited by the opportunity to learn new digital skills, which drew her to the WMCA Cloud Engineering programme run by Generation. She found new employment as a result.

Miss Hasan said: “At first, it felt like something that professionals could do and not something that I could learn. However, I found python and coding exciting; seeing them work and being able to fix issues. I felt as though I was drifting before I joined Generation, but now I know exactly what I would like to do and can see where I am going.

As mentioned, digital skills bootcamps can also be used by employed people looking to gain the digital skills required to secure more responsibility or a promotion with their current employers. Before undertaking a WMCA bootcamp, Inderjit Muctor had been working in social care and recently moved into a Practice Development Coordinator role with Walsall council, which involved working with data. Mr Muctor found it challenging to manage and analyse the data to help support decisions made in his department.

“I needed to up-skill to really understand how to analyse this data and was interested in data analytics,” he explained. “The training was fantastic and exactly what I needed to learn to help support my job role. I am now using the knowledge and skills to add real value to my job role and the department.”

In these cases, the outcome is win-win. New opportunities and career progression for participants; and new employees or better-trained staff for the employer. 

Undoubtedly, digital skills bootcamps will play a valuable role for businesses seeking to achieve growth ambitions. Bridging the skills gap is crucial in ensuring a healthy digital economy and efficient recruitment drives. Therefore, I would encourage employers to search for existing digital skills partnerships in their area, and if possible, interact with the courses as a very focused, practical means of improving their access to necessary digital skills training.