Why 80% of tech firms fear skills crisis damage

by Joe Curtis| 07 August 2014

Do we need to encourage more adoption of science and maths at school?

Eight in 10 tech firms fear the impending skills crisis will affect their business in the next three years, according to a report from The Prince's Trust.

More than half of companies in the science, technology and engineering sectors worry that the lack of skills could hit them in the next 12 months, according to the report, called Skills Crunch.

The same proportion also said the skills crisis could hurt Britain's economic recovery.

The report interviewed 500 employees across a range of industries, finding that 35% believe skills shortages would cause their firms to close, while two-thirds advocate urgent action to avoid a "bubbling skills crisis".

A total 72% say recruiting more young people would avert such a crisis, and 68% say investing in better training could also help.

But 71% of companies admitted that unemployed young people face stigma from potential employers.

Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince's Trust, said: "It is deeply concerning that employers are struggling to fill vacancies when we have hundreds of thousands of unemployed young people desperate for work. The current economic recovery is encouraging, but to sustain this growth, UK plc needs to invest in the next generation to avoid a skills vacuum in the future.

"We are already working with a number of leading organisations in the science, technology and engineering sector - including Accenture and PayPal - to upskill the workforce of the future and get unemployed young people into jobs. Today, we are urging others in the sector to take action to prevent the bubbling skills crisis from boiling over."

Meanwhile, Mark Wilkinson, the British MD of business analytics firm SAS, warned that young people aren't getting the right education to prepare them for the technology sector.

"We know from our own research with e-skills UK that around 70,000 big data specialists are required in the UK in the next three years," he said. "We also know, from Department for Education figures, that there are 192 schools with no students studying science or maths at A-Level.

"A further 176 schools have fewer than ten students in any one of these subjects. The skills are not being taken up during these crucial years of education."

He added: "This is a ticking time bomb for the UK economy - and the fact that more companies are voicing concerns will hopefully prompt more widespread action."

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