TechUK has called on the government to address the UK’s big data skills gap, with the IT industry body warning of a risk to UK GDP if no action is taken in the immediate future.
In new report, Understanding, Demystifying and Addressing the UK’s Big Data Skills Gap, techUK has identified big data and data analytics as a key pillar to the future of the UK’s Digital Economy. In what is called ‘the big data revolution’, the industry body expects big data to create 157,000 additional jobs and add £241 billion to UK GDP by 2020.
In order to fulfil that GDP and job potential, there needs to be serious attempts made to address the big data skills gap. It is noted in the report that big data is not unique in its struggles to fill digital roles, with the UK losing £2 billion from unfilled digital roles across all areas. However, techUK has identified big data as the market which is expected to count for the largest proportion of vacancies – which is why action must be taken to bridge the skills gap as soon as possible.
It is not an easy problem to remedy, however, with techUK warning against chasing one specific set of skills and pointing to the variety and breadth of skills required of big data.
“The UK needs skilled individuals able to build reliable big data platforms, as well as those who are able to identify and import relevant external data sets. Skills are required to bridge the gap between the business problem and the big data solution with an understanding of both, alongside technical analytical skills to use programmes to implement big data solutions. Algorithms need to be designed, trends identified and correlations investigated,” the report said.
“Talent in relaying insights provided by data in an intelligible way to non-data experts is required, and someone needs to be in control of the overall strategy.”
Identifying what skills are needed is only one half of the equation, with the other being the issue of identifying what skills are missing. TechUK poses a number of questions such as; Which skills are missing and which do we actually have enough of? Is there a particular area where the UK lacks skilled individuals more than others? The report made a number of recommendations to unsure the UK has the skills needed as the big data revolution nears, including:
- Data Analysts, Data Infrastructure Engineers and Solution Architects should feature prominently on any future Government preferred shortage occupation list, joining Data Scientists.
- The UK’s existing tech workforce should be upskilled
- The Department for Education must work to ensure there is more uptake of higher-level apprenticeships from a younger age with the forthcoming Apprenticeship Levy.
- Programming and Analytics should be introduced earlier in the school curriculum.
- Promote the value & importance of Big Data and Data Analytics to the UK’s economy and society in order to inspire future industry leaders.