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Theresa May announces £40 million fund to close the UK’s digital skills gap

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that the UK government will put £20 million in funding towards the foundation of a new organisation, dedicated to supporting training and retraining in digital skills.

Mrs May made the announcement at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week. It will be part of a £40 million fund from the government and private industry, which will be used to close the digital skills shortage.

Several UK CIOs have acknowledged that recruitment of IT specialists is their biggest challenge, including Jo Smith of the Royal Brompton Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and Tom Clark of Leeds Building Society. Both agreed that there is more demand for digital skills than there is supply.

In Davos, Mrs May said that the new Institute of Coding will be a consortium of more than 60 universities, businesses and industry experts. From academia, institutions will include the University of Bath, Newcastle University and UCL. In the private sector Microsoft, IBM and Cisco, as well as several SMEs and industry bodies like the British Computer Society, have all signed on.

“I know from my conversations with tech companies how seriously they are taking their own social responsibility to contribute to the retraining that will help people secure new opportunities in the digital economy,” Mrs May said. “But this strategy and partnership with business goes further than getting the fundamentals of our economy right. It also seeks to get us on the front foot in seizing the opportunities of technology for tomorrow.”

The Institute will focus on five core areas:

  1. University learners – to boost graduate employability;

  2. The existing digital workforce – to develop specialist skills training in areas of strategic importance;

  3. Digitalising the professions – to assist with digital transformation;

  4. Widening participation – to boost equality and diversity in technology-related education and careers; and

  5. Knowledge sharing and sustainability – to share outcomes and good practice, ensuring long-term sustainability of the IoC.

Several companies will provide staff and training for the Institute’s undergraduate and masters programmes, one of which is BT. BT Group chief executive, Gavin Patterson, said:

“Digital skills are crucial to BT’s current and future success, but no company can fix the UK’s digital skills shortage on its own. By working together across industry and academia, the Institute of Coding will unlock access to a bigger and more diverse workforce, and support skills development for people at different stages of their careers.

“We are particularly pleased that industry will have the opportunity to build on its work within the Tech Partnership and our existing degree apprenticeship schemes, setting standards and promoting degrees that are aligned to employer needs.”

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