National Coding Week – Reap the benefits of an upskilled workforce

It’s fitting that, on the first day of National Coding Week, the World Economic Forum has projected that robots will create 133 million jobs compared to the 75 million it will displace by 2022.

Why is this fitting? It’s because the same study found that software developers will become particularly in-demand, as well as data analysts and social media specialists, highlighting the importance of the digital skill which is rapidly becoming more important than ever.

38% of businesses expect their workforces to grow thanks to automation and artificial intelligence, seeing themselves hiring “new productivity-enhancing roles”. These new roles will either build or support new technologies – like coders and app developers – or be roles that are significantly enhanced by technology such as social media and e-commerce experts.

A net increase in jobs is great news socio-economically; however, it’s further evidence of the digital skills gap the UK is experiencing. The report predicts that a minimum of 54% of all employees will need “significant re- and upskilling”, with over half of that number requiring additional training for a minimum of 6 months. Some of the key skills needed in this digital-first world include inherently ‘human’ interpersonal skills like creativity, critical thinking, persuasion and analytical thinking, but the report predicts a sharp rise in demand for programming skills.

Following the publication of damning stats around ICT’s school subject replacement, Computer Science, and the implications on the digital skills gap, we wrote about how this could be addressed at a school age. However, as our new recruit and Gen Z-er Amelia pointed out in her fantastic first blog for TSG, Gen Z isn’t necessarily the group we need to be worried about. 2022 is only 4 short years away and with around a third of the UK’s workforce over 50 (Women and Equalities Committee) and over half of the workforce requiring additional training, it’s clear there needs to be a focus on the existing workforce, too.

That’s where initiatives like National Coding Week come in. The volunteer-led movement “helps build people’s confidence and skills by encouraging volunteers to run fun and engaging digital events.” While National Coding Week isn’t aimed solely at upskilling adults, it’s home to a number of success stories from people who’ve upskilled and learnt coding well into their career. Founder Richard Rolfe decided to take up computer coding after a life-changing diagnosis and was struck by how difficult it was to take the first steps in learning this new skill outside of structured education.

It’s essential that businesses and educational institutions allow both those in education and those in work to either learn digital skills at an early age or upskill as and when needed. Offering upskilling opportunities to your employees will not only benefit them, but your business and the economy. Businesses must take a leading role in ensuring their workforce is fit-for-purpose and understand the benefits they can reap from this.

By upskilling your existing workforce, you can get more out of your existing employees and empower them to explore the skills that will become critical to many job functions. What’s more, many functions of their jobs could become automated – the report focuses on the “augmentation of existing jobs through technology” – which in turn would free up their time and allow them to add value in more meaningful ways. It’s a key tenant of the tools out there designed to increase productivity, like Office 365 (which can now also measure and further improve productivity) or Qlik Sense, an intuitive business intelligence application that takes away the burden of configuring datasets.

It’s important to let your employees engage in these new skills in a way that works for them. I was interested to find out that 83% of app developers are self-taught (VisionMobile), but I shouldn’t be surprised; one of TSG’s own Internal Systems Developers, Sam, is mostly self-taught.

At TSG, we foster a culture of lifelong learning for a number of reasons. Firstly, a workforce of highly-skilled and highly-trained experts is essential to delivering on our mission to support our customers’ success through deploying innovative solutions. Our developers, consultants and support engineers are constantly upskilling by undertaking industry-standard certifications and examinations, which has the additional bonus of contributing to our company-wide achievements such as our 9 Microsoft Gold competencies and Sophos Platinum Partner status.

It’s also important to support our colleagues with their career aspirations. We’re proud to give our staff the flexibility to move and progress internally within TSG, upskilling staff that come from customer service roles into more technical positions through a structured training programme.

One thing is for sure: the skills required of our workforce in the very near future are shaping up to be vastly different from today, but we’re moving there rapidly. It’s clear that more must be done both at schools and educational institutions, but businesses should play their part in supporting their existing staff to upskill. The app developer industry alone is expected to surpass $30 billion by 2025, so perhaps coding is the path to follow.