Exploring tech skills in the UK – Tech Nation Talent: Part 2

Data & research, insights, talent, Talent Report: Part 2

George WindsorGeorge Windsor, December 15, 2017

This article was originally posted on the Tech City UK website.

New research using insights on 2.2 million LinkedIn members shows that tech skills are a vital part of the UK skills landscape

The findings from this in-depth examination of tech skills are based on innovative new insights from LinkedIn, which makes it possible to map each region’s tech skill base and analyse the experience, education and mobility of the country’s tech-skilled workers. This authoritative new research, carried out in partnership by Tech City UK and LinkedIn, also explores the distribution of tech skills through jobs, business functions and industry sectors. It is one of the most ambitious attempts to build up a granular picture of tech skills by region, function and sectors in order to give as full a picture as possible of the existing UK tech landscape.

We define tech skills as the ability to do something productive using technology, and in the research we use the definition with reference to work, rather than everyday life. Examples of tech skills range from Java Development, and Application Packaging to Computing – showing their breadth.

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Insights from the research reveal that tech skills are being used across a diverse range of both tech and non-tech sectors

We found that there is an extensive base of skilled tech workers across the UK, with 2.2 million LinkedIn members identifying themselves as having tech skills. If we think about this in the context of the working population in the UK, at just over 32 million people (ONS, 2017) and all  UK LinkedIn members at 23 million, it’s clear that members with tech skills comprise a sizeable and significant proportion of the national skills pool.

But size is only part of the story. Crucially, where members with tech skills are based, and the roles, functions and sectors that tech skills are used in, forms a core part of the research. We find that tech skills are evenly spread across the UK, although London and the South East have slightly higher levels than other regions with 15.9% of LinkedIn members in London having tech skills, and 15.8% of members in the South East.

During 2016, London and the North West continued to attract skilled tech workers from all over the country, demonstrating the success of the tech sectors there. London and the North West both showed a net gain in tech-skilled workers, while other regions showed a loss. Regions outside London are also highly dependent on international talent with the data showing that just over half (50.5%) of international talent moved to regions outside the capital. Scotland attracted 6.6% of the international talent and 5.8% went to the North West.

The data is published at a critical time for the digital tech industry which is competing in a global race for talent. The UK government has made developing tech skills a national priority, in order to boost the number of high value, highly-productive jobs in the economy. However, the Tech Nation Talent research reveals the extent to which the UK operates in a global skills market.

Tech skilled members are highly educated

The majority of LinkedIn members with tech skills are educated to university degree level or higher. More than half (54%) have a Bachelor’s degree, while 30% have a Master’s degree. A small but significant proportion hold a Doctorate.

The level of education among the tech skilled workforce shows little regional variation, though London, Northern Ireland and Scotland have slightly higher proportions of tech-skilled workers with degree level or higher qualifications.

Some regions are more likely to retain graduates with tech skills from local universities than others

London was among those retaining most of its graduates (67.7% of London university graduates stay in the capital for their first job). Two other regions also stood out with Scotland (also at 68.5%) and Northern Ireland (74.5%) showing high retention rates.

After these regions, the North West has the next highest ability to retain graduates with a retention rate of 43.92%, in comparison other regions have retention rates of between 30% and 35%. The research points to a need for the UK to address the regional challenge of retaining graduate workers with tech skills.

Entrepreneurship and tech skills go hand in hand

One of the reasons that the digital tech sector is prized is that it creates jobs and innovation. Analysing LinkedIn members with tech skills shows that 3.4% of them describe themselves as working in the entrepreneurship function within a business. This, of course, is fundamental to the UK’s thriving startup sector – and enables UK businesses to capture the positive benefits of innovation to stay in the leading pack of an increasingly globalised tech ecosystem.

Tech City UK’s Digital Business Academy (DBA) is leading the charge to support a wide range of people to acquire these digital business skills. The Digital Business Academy offers 56 expert courses for anyone, and for free, ranging from developing a digital product, to running social media campaigns, to mastering finance for your business. And it works – almost 20% of graduates report that they are starting digital companies after finishing at least one skill with DBA.

Tech skills are transferable across jobs, functions and industry sectors

Tech skills were found to be highly transferable. More than a third of people now working in tech (36%) moved from non-tech jobs. The largest group came from professional services (6.6%), followed by financial services (5.4%) and media and entertainment (3.1%).

The crossover of tech skills into media and entertainment and other creative sectors such as arts and design points to a cadre of highly mobile employees with transferable skills. It is notable that these sectors along with technology sector itself, are among the fastest growing and most productive in the UK economy.

Our research, carried out with LinkedIn, provides an insight sometimes lacking in ‘top-down’ surveys. Working from the bottom up, with the skills information of millions of LinkedIn members, we’ve been able to see who has the tech skills our economy needs and what exactly those skills are. We can also see where they are and where they came from. These insights are essential to help us build up a picture of where the UK needs to boost skills to make sure it benefits from the jobs and wealth creation that the tech sector can provide.

The first part of the Tech Nation Talent report series focussed on the nationality of workers in the UK tech industry.

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This article and research was co-authored by Francesca Cahill, Research Manager at Tech City UK.