A new study from Forbes Advisor has unveiled that a staggering 93 per cent of employers perceive there to be an IT skills gap within the UK job market. The experts at the price comparison and guidance platform surveyed 500 UK businesses across a range of sectors, including business, consulting and management, engineering and education, to find out what IT skills they are most lacking, as well as what measures they are taking to bridge the skills gap.
When examining the primary reasons behind the IT skills gap, more than two in five businesses (42 per cent) attribute the issue to the rapid pace of technological advancements. Training and development challenges were identified by two in five businesses (41 per cent) while over a third (37 per cent) cite a lack of relevant educational programmes.
More than a third of businesses (35 per cent) expressed concerns about competition and the scarcity of qualified candidates. Additionally, more than a quarter of businesses (29 per cent) pointed to salary disparities across the sector as a contributing factor.
The skill that emerged as a top priority for employers in 2023 is within artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Overall, two in five employers (40 per cent) consider this to be the most sought-after skill in the UK jobs market.
This sentiment is particularly echoed by key decision-makers in organisations. Three quarters (75 per cent) of business chairpeople and more than two thirds (71 per cent) of business partners believe that skills in AI hold the greatest value in today’s job market.
Following closely are two other indispensable technology skills, IT support and troubleshooting (32 per cent) and cybersecurity (30 per cent).
Further research highlights how so-called ‘soft skills’ play a key role alongside technical expertise for employers. When questioned on the most vital soft skills for IT professionals to possess, more than half of employers (55 per cent) identified problem-solving, which encompasses analytical skills, critical thinking and troubleshooting.
Following closely behind is adaptability (52 per cent), highlighting the importance of embracing change and learning new skills in an ever-evolving industry. Teamwork holds an equal importance (52 per cent), with collaborative efforts and cooperation highlighted as a top skill within a fast-paced IT environment.
Regarding soft skills for IT professionals, two in five businesses (40 per cent) cite ‘effective communication’ – ensuring they can convey ideas through various channels. More than a quarter of businesses (28 per cent) rank leadership as an essential skill, with vision, motivation, and delegation key for guiding teams and strategies.
How are businesses aiming to bridge the IT skills gap?
Research has uncovered the ways in which British businesses are rising to the challenge of the IT skills gap by implementing innovative strategies. More than one-third of businesses (34 per cent) have invested in internal training programmes to upskill their workforce.
Following closely, nearly one-third of businesses (31 per cent) outsource their IT projects to specialised providers or consultants. Additionally, 30 per cent are investing in top talent by offering IT experts higher salaries or incentives, and likewise, more than one-quarter (28 per cent) are actively headhunting candidates from other companies.
Mark Hooson, technology reporter at Forbes Advisor, said: “Small businesses may be able to tackle the IT skills gap with useful software and website builders. These resources can empower businesses to navigate technology challenges, even without a full IT team.
“Website builders offer customisable templates and modules, which means there’s no need for complex coding. Also, software can automate routine tasks and facilitate communication, reducing the reliance on technical expertise.”