11 steps to building the nation’s digital DNA


Jacqueline de Rojas, techUK president and Citrix area VP, looks at the current state of the UK tech industry and shares 11 recommendations that will help the UK fulfil its digital potential.

The divide between the UK’s digital optimism and its digital realism is growing.

The UK has long been renowned as a leader in the fields of science and industrial innovation and now has also demonstrated it has the potential to be a digital nation of significance. With 17 tech unicorns already under its belt – that’s 17 businesses worth a billion dollars – the country has been flaunting its massive potential in the space.

But the reality of achieving this potential is much harder – the lack of skilled people coming into the sector is hampering the industry’s development and ultimately poses a significant threat to future growth. Over 90% of technology companies already believe the digital skills gap has a direct negative impact on their business.

Unfilled roles requiring these skills are already haemorrhaging a potential £2bn from the economy, and this problem will only be exacerbated if the 134,000 new jobs created in the tech sector every year remain vacant.

Despite this well-understood and looming threat, little is being done to prevent it.


It is not solely for the growth of the technology sector that we must invest in bridging the digital skills gap. Digital technology is creating opportunities across all industries and society; transforming the way people work, communicate, express themselves creatively and more. Developing our nation’s digital skills is essential to harness this potential and help British companies remain at the forefront of their industries.

Together, industry, government and think-tanks must do more in developing the digital skills to secure the future that both the economy and our young people sorely need – and we need to act fast. For the UK to fulfil its digital potential, we will need over two million skilled workers by 2020.

We desperately need to supercharge the UK’s digital skills capabilities and realise it on the necessary scale. Here are 11 recommendations to do just that.

1. Demystify tech and inspire young people – we’ve got to get kids INSPIRED and involved in digital learning programmes early by teaching them in engaging, practical ways – which in turn increases awareness of tech careers

2. Make tech fun and inclusive in the classroom – basic digital skills are a universal essential, so we’ve got to support STEM education in schools and use technology to empower children with special needs. It’s time to get involved and offer your skills

3. Inspire girls to pursue tech subjects and careers – we need to put an end to tech industry’s “boy’s club” reputation by championing female role models and offering open days in tech businesses for girls

4. Create the digital skills needed across all sectors – we need to highlight that EVERY job will require digital skills (#notjustforgeeks). We can support skill development by encouraging schools to use digital technology in non-STEM subjects

5. Ensure schools are equipped to teach computing – by training more ICT teachers and giving current ones further development opportunities, we can help them confidently inspire their pupils around digital concepts

6. Support and empower our teachers – we must equip all teachers with at least basic digital skills by introducing them to digital teaching qualifications

7. Create more apprenticeships in the tech sector – let’s put digital skills at the heart of the three million apprenticeship target by making it easier for SMEs to take on apprentices in digital roles

8. Create new job entry routes into tech roles – the industry has to start looking at new ways of training and recruiting, whether that’s by emulating the National College for Digital Skills model across the UK, or creating code conversion courses

9. Make it easy for industry to volunteer – we’ve got to amplify the business benefits of volunteering and facilitate it by creating a matchmaking platform. A new app perhaps?

10. Ensure we reach across the entire nation – setting up tech business alliances could help coordinate digital skills stakeholders in clusters. We must also replicate successful local platforms that connect digital skills stakeholders and scale up tech business support for teaching digital skills in local schools

11. Adopt a ‘smart migration’ approach to support the UK as a tech nation – we can’t upskill as fast as we need it and we certainly can’t do it alone! We must ensure UK tech businesses can thrive with top international talent by considering immigration reform, broadening the pool of skilled digital workers and enabling universities to attract top talent from every corner of the world

The skills challenge is one of the greatest risks to economic growth in the 21st century. Without enough talented workers, the UK will never achieve its potential in supercharging its already successful digital industry.

But as ever, it’s quality not just quantity– and we need to make sure we’re getting the right talent! Continuing to work with girls to help them gain the right skills and support them as they develop successful technology careers will help our industry be more innovative and drive better results.

Time’s up for paying lip service to the digital skills divide. If the UK wants to assume its position as a digital nation of significance, it’s time for industry, the government and think-tanks to tackle this problem together. By following these 11 recommendations, we can ensure that everyone has the opportunity to get excited, engaged and involved in the UK technology industry.