Over the past few years, London has established itself as a global tech hub and a leading player on a worldwide scale. This is because the tech industry in England’s capital city has been thriving as a result of an influx of new start-ups, an increasing number of unicorn companies, and a lot of activity in the venture capital industry. The hard work that has been done by organisations such as Tech London Advocates has really paid off. In fact, some of the top tech firms in the UK are growing at 1,000pc a year, including start-ups Kano, Hassle and Bloom & Wild.
However, if London is to continue to thrive and reaming a leading global player, work needs to be done to address skill shortages in the capital. Companies that are based in London are competing with other tech hubs, not only Silicon Valley, but also the likes of Tel Aviv, New York, and Berlin. These businesses need to be able to secure investment with greater ease and attract the very best talent across the world; otherwise the London tech industry will not be able to grow at the same rate as other major tech hubs.
Despite the fact that there has been a massive growth in jobs in the London tech scene, there does not seem to be the skills to fill the gap. Notable areas where there are skill shortages include data science, cyber security, BioTech, full stack development, and machine learning. There has been a lot of news attention to the lack of cyber security professionals in the UK. Many believe demand has hit a crisis point. This is worrying when you consider that the threat of a data breach is growing by the day. From secure VPN providers, like Avast, to penetration testing companies, skills are needed in so many domains. BioTech professionals are also in short supply, and so such experts tend to be snapped up by the big companies, meaning start-ups and academic labs are unable to get the talent they need.
The UK has not been great at providing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) graduates over the years, and now we are paying the price. In fact, statistics show that the UK only produces 90,000 STEM graduates per year. This includes international students who will return to their home country, or elsewhere, as they are not able to secure a working visa in the UK. Moreover, around a quarter of these graduates will choose a job in another sector. The Royal Academy of Engineering has found that 100,000 STEM graduates are going to be required every year until 2020 if current employment numbers are to be maintained, and so you can see the real issue.
While the restrictive immigration system is making it challenging for tech firms to attract the talent they need, there are some positive moves being made. This includes the fact that the Home Office has added certain digital jobs to the list for Shortage Occupation. This is the first time such a move has been made in over a decade, which makes it easier for businesses to recruit international staff.