On March 22nd, Year 7 children at registered schools across the UK received free BBC micro:bit’s. The BBC micro:bit is a pocket-sized, codeable computer aimed at teaching kids to get creative with digital and develop core skills in science, technology and engineering.

It allows kids to learn simple code and create anything they want, from games, metal detectors, thermometers, real time text messaging, weather forecasting and much more. The BBC created the initiative to inspire children to feed their creativity, learn programming and ultimately develop a generation of technologically skilled school leavers to help fill the tech skills gap.

The current gap in skilled technology professionals is already costing the UK billions of pounds. It is reported that over the next 5 years the UK will need 1.4 million digital professionals to fill jobs which require skills such as coding and analytics.

The problem with the BBC micro:bit is that, although it’s a great initiative, the year 7 kids receiving them still won’t be old enough to enter the workforce in 5 years time and actually fill these jobs. We argue more still needs to be done to fill the skills gap and stop businesses being held back.

It no longer affects just tech industry but the whole economy. 40% of digital technology roles currently exist in non technical industries such as finance and public services and this is set to grow. Initiatives such as CodeClan, Scotland’s first digital skills academy, are addressing the issues however the immediate problem still exists for the majority of businesses looking to grow their teams and boost productivity.

The real responsibility lies with individual hiring managers and businesses. Many won’t hire until they find what is their idea of a perfect candidate. However, businesses need to understand that with such high competition for scarce talent it’s rarely beneficial to keep searching and waiting to hire. Rather they should hire the candidates who are closest match to their requirements regardless if they are lacking one or two skills or areas of experience. These can be all being taught. Experience can be gained. Offer on the job training and your problems are solved.

Businesses should be investing in the long term development of talent rather than expecting a “ready made” candidate for every hire they wish to make. Only then can the technology skills gap really begin to close and businesses can fill their jobs today rather than in 5+ years time.

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