‘Blinkered’ UK firms cannot see data skills shortage

tech 2UK businesses are even more delusional over whether they have the right skills to meet their data needs, with more than four-fifths (82%) of firms seeing no problem, despite there being up to 234,000 data roles to be filled.

That is the worrying conclusion from a new Government report, the “UK Business Data Survey 2022”, published by the Department of Digital, Media, Culture & Sport which reveals the situation is actually getting worse.

In a separate DCMS report, Quantifying the UK Data Skills Gap, published last year, three-fifths (58%) thought that their organisation had sufficient data skills to meet their current and future needs, despite the fact that almost half of businesses were seeking to fill data roles.

The “UK Business Data Survey 2022” reveals there is no statistically significant variation between business size or sector, although maintains this lack of variation with business size is not necessarily surprising.

It states: “Large businesses might be expected to have more resources to train staff and also have the capacity for greater numbers of specialist staff, than smaller businesses, but the question asks whether respondents felt their staff had sufficient data skills to meet the business’ need.

“For instance, a large company specialising in artificial intelligence will need more ‘data skills’ than the small café, but both could be equally meeting their business needs in this regard.”

However, according to the Data Skills Gap report, UK businesses are recruiting for 215,000-234,000 data roles: some 215,000 roles in businesses that require hard data skills, beyond basic IT skills, and a further 19,000 roles in businesses that require only basic IT skills as a hard skill.

The definition of ‘data skills’ covers a range of roles, from more data-heavy specialist roles, where employees are using data for the majority of their work, to more generalist ones, requiring some hard data skills for a smaller proportion of the work.

When narrowing down the definition to look at businesses recruiting for specific data specialist roles and those that require ‘hard’ data skills, the Government estimated 178,000 vacancies. In these roles, the majority of the work is centred around data and requires more advanced data knowledge.

Over the past two years, just under half (46%) of businesses have struggled to recruit for roles that require data skills. The difficulty of recruitment differs by business size, although this is also the result of smaller businesses being less likely to recruit for data roles in the first place.

Over half (55%) of large and medium (54%) sized businesses have struggled to recruit, compared to three in ten (30%) of smaller businesses and one in ten micro businesses. Businesses tend to find it difficult to recruit for roles in higher demand. One in ten (9%) have difficulty filling a “data analyst” role, with a similar proportion (8%) finding it difficult to fill a “head of data” position.

The report states: “Despite the fact that almost half of businesses are seeking to fill data roles, many think that their organisation has sufficient data skills to meet their current and future needs [but] companies may believe that they have the skills they need due to the lack of understanding of how data skills can benefit them in the future.”

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