Budget 2015: Government misses opportunity to boost technology skills

While chancellor George Osborne announced a number of measures yesterday to support the technology industry - including investment in Internet of Things, driverless cars, broadband infrastructure, tech incubators and the fintech sector - progress cannot be made in these areas without the talent to support it, according to the IT industry.

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Businesses large and small have criticised the government for not using the Budget to take a more proactive approach to addressing the technology skills gap.

While chancellor George Osborne announced a number of measures yesterday to support the technology industry - including investment in Internet of Things, driverless cars, broadband infrastructure, tech incubators and the fintech sector - progress cannot be made in these areas without the talent to support it, according to the IT industry.

Mark Darbyshire, chief technology adviser at SAP UKI, said: “The UK government’s £40 million investment in IoT research is a step in the right direction for the country. What we’d like to see addressed more proactively, however, is a focus on the skills and standards needed to realise the potential offered by new technological trend like this.

“Getting this right has to be at the heart of our industrial and technology strategy in the UK.”

Peter Kelly, managing director at Virgin Media Business, also commented on the “surprising” lack of the mention of digital skills in Osborne’s announcement.

“Investment in digital skills doesn’t just boost the IT sector, it gives Britain a competitive advantage over the rest of the world,” he said.

“Businesses have a role to play, but government support is essential. To use Osborne’s words, if we want to continue ‘walking tall’, we must commit to investing in digital skills, ensuring that the UK retains its digital advantage.”

Entrepreneurs, in particular, need government support

Andrew Yates, CEO of early-stage UK software company Artesian Solutions, agreed that companies like his needed this government support.

“As CEO of a fast-growing UK technology business, the things that really interest me are grants for developing my people [and] support for developing technology,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sonia Blizzard, founder and MD of voice and data technology products company Beaming, said that developing skills is essential for supporting the tech industry that the government wants to rely on for the future of the economy.

“Seventy-eight percent of executives are looking for a broader range of skills when hiring than they did in the past and only five percent are confident that they can secure exactly the right skillset that’s needed,” she said.

“With these figures in mind, I am very surprised that there is not more to come from the government in terms of offering more resources towards the skills shortages. After all, technology is developing all the time and it is something that businesses and individuals rely upon daily.

Blizzard added: “It is up to the government to invest in these technology companies to keep them alive and with that comes investment in skills development.”

The founder of entrepreneur community Innovation Warehouse, Ami Shpiro, suggested that the government could have boosted skills by taking a more global view.

“The government is right to try and encourage the creation of tech and enterprise zones across the country, but what we really need is more support for small businesses, more investment in education and skills, and an immigration policy that allows us to pick the best and brightest.”

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