Last week the government launched a new fund to boost the diversity of people working in digital and tech jobs. Welcome news to the sector and to people who would otherwise not be able to establish themselves in these fields.
The fund includes a “£1 million Digital Skills Innovation Fund and will help people from underrepresented groups gain the skills they need to work in digital roles’”and “an additional £400,000 to help older and disabled people get life-changing digital skills”.
According to a report by the British Computer Society, only 17% of the UK’s IT workforce are non-white and only 17% are women. It also says that 21% are aged over 50 and only 8% are disabled.
My work with DCMS on the Digital Skills Partnership Board and in thinking about how to make this happen in Local Digital Skills Partnerships has brought sharply into focus the issues we have with recruitment for digital roles and how essential it is to bring in more people and more people from the whole diversity of our nation (be it gender, ethnic background, or age). I’m pleased to see the Tech Talent Charter also got more Government support in this announcement – and they’re featured in the LDSP Playbook. (You might remember my blog about our own recruitment issues at Good Things.)
I’ve had a few ideas about career changers, inspired by people who have come to LDSP Creative Summits, that I voiced on this podcast recently.
Good luck to everyone who’s going to bid into this new fund – innovation is one of those over used words, but in this case the nation really needs to know how to crack this nut and to help grow a bigger, and a more diverse, tech sector.
Tech careers aren’t the only need out there
The additional fund of £400,000 to help older and disabled people is a welcome move to the Good Things Foundation team and the Online Centres Network.
Many of the learners who come into Online Centres are older or have some kind of disability.
According to Lloyds Banking Group’s Consumer Digital Index 2018, disabled people are four times more likely to lack basic digital skills – that’s 3.5 million people – and 28% of those aged over 60 are digitally excluded.
Disabled people and older people need equally as much help, if not more, to make the most of computers and the internet.
The solution we’ve been waiting for?
There’s no doubt that there has been more of a focus on digital upskilling in the past few years, with different sectors working together to make it happen. The Online Centres Network works hard every day to support people in their communities. But there’s only so much we can all do without financial support to do it.
We can’t go into this thinking that the new funding means we’ve found a solution to the UK’s digital skills problem. But we can go into it knowing that it will go a long way in helping millions of people to succeed in the online world and in digital and tech careers.
At Good Things Foundation, we’re always working hard to solve the digital skills crisis, and we have so many more ideas to bring to the table. We’re happy to talk any time.