Closing the digital skills gap in the wake of COVID-19 | NTT DATA

Tue, 19 January 2021

Closing the digital skills gap in the wake of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption in the world of work and technology has really stepped in as the saving grace for businesses around the world. We are living through an unprecedented digital revolution, with technology relied upon for a vast array of functions, whether it is remote collaboration on Zoom calls or staying connected to customers via ecommerce platforms.

As the pandemic accelerates the rise of the digital economy, businesses are urgently working to ensure that their workforce is ready to maximise the value of technology. Connecting and nurturing these talented individuals will be crucial in the road to recovery after the pandemic. According to research from NTT DATA, over half of furloughed workers are already considering a career move. In fact, at the time of our survey, 13% were already actively reskilling to move industries and 16% of those seeking a new career were considering moving into technology, making it the most popular industry of choice.

STEM’s diversity problem

Despite the clear need for more people to help drive the sector’s growth, our research also pointed towards some large barriers to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths): almost half (43%) of furloughed workers believing that they are not qualified enough to work in the industry.

At NTT DATA, we recognise that building a workforce of people from multiple backgrounds makes us more creative, innovative, and by extension, more competitive. These obstacles to entering STEM continue to limit the diversity of the industry’s workforce. Clearly, businesses need to be doing more to invest in inclusive and accessible digital training for all.

Increasing opportunities

At NTT DATA, we put diversity and inclusion at the heart of what we do, and we want to address some of these problems head on.

In 2019, we announced a £68million investment into NTT DATA’s UK-based operation. It was a significant move that reflects our ongoing commitment to the UK market and our confidence that we have some of the best talent and technological innovation in the world. This investment will expand our own capabilities in order to accelerate the delivery of the latest technological innovations to industries in the UK. How we go about doing that is, of course, a complex question, but a big part of that investment is going into ramping up our recruitment.

We are hiring more people in software engineering and development roles as well as specialist technical and consultancy skills in AI, Big Data and DevOps among others. A lot of this work is being directed through new centres of excellence in London and Birmingham. It’s a huge undertaking but we really want to show where our investment is going, and our new Tech Academy programme forms a central plank of our recruitment strategy.

Taking a different approach

The first thing to say is, this isn’t a straightforward recruitment challenge. Our focus is on helping our customers accelerate their digital transformation and so it is essential that we have the right people with the right digital skills ourselves. The issue is that finding those people is no easy task.

The digital skills gap is a pressing problem around the world. The CBI published a truly startling report in 2020 stating that 26 million workers in the UK will require upskilling as their role evolves. It forecasts that 9 in 10 workers will need some form of reskilling by 2030 in order to resolve this skills deficit, and so businesses need to act fast. The stakes are high: a recent European Commission study estimates Europe might have as many as 750,000 unfilled jobs in the ICT sector.

When it came to investing in our recruitment programme, we knew we needed to take a more innovative approach. We have partnered with InfinityGlobal.IO to disrupt traditional recruitment methods and roll out our Tech Academy programme.

The Tech Academy

The central idea behind the Tech Academy initiative is that it is open to everyone. We are not looking for participants to have any prior qualifications – that’s what the Academy is for. Through a combination of digital and face-to-face teaching from specialists, we enhance passion, ambition and skill.

The Academies are made up of ‘pods’ of 8 or more people who often work together to complete hands-on projects and assignments in pursuit of their certifications. Progress is tracked through digital self-assessments and students also have an on-the-ground support network of trainers and mentors. This ensures that they’re confident, collaborative and used to working well together as teams before being deployed into their full-time positions, where each pod has ongoing access to the Academy platform for long-term career development and support.

The Academy trains people for a variety of skills and roles. For example, we have partnered with Microsoft Global Learning Partner, Millionlights, to deliver world-class training and certifications to students for roles that we know are in high demand and support their entry into the technology sector.

It’s a radically new approach but one that enables us to embrace talent from a far broader pool – and every background. We firmly believe it is the only way to address the skills gap and ensure that our business is sustainable in the long-term.

A win-win for everyone involved

Our Tech Academy programme has been running for more than six months now with 50 candidates enrolled to date and it has been extremely successful. We have been able to train a diverse group of people, including those without degrees, who might previously have been unable to secure a job in tech. It is truly an amazing programme, and one that we are proud to be leading. The feedback from candidates has been phenomenal:

Lewis, Cloud Engineer at NTT DATA UK “The Academy has changed my career entirely. I was stuck. It’s enabled me to do what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Anthony, Integration Academy at NTT DATA UK “We’ve learned more on this course, in this environment, in the past 8 weeks than we had in a year trying to do this on our own. It definitely works.”

Watch Lewis video on his Tech Academy experience

Where to next?

If we are to bounce back successfully from the pandemic, the economy must have inclusive training and reskilling opportunities at its core. With more initiatives like the Tech Academy targeting specific underrepresented groups, we hope to continue creating opportunities in the future and look towards a more innovative and creative technology sector as we embark on the next decade and beyond of digitalisation.

We take great pride in upskilling people and being proactive in playing a role in closing the digital skills gap, both within our own company and in the industry more broadly. As I hope this blog makes clear, our investment in the Academy is so much more than just a recruitment programme. Ultimately what makes the programme unique is that everyone wins; the candidates, NTT DATA, our partners, and even at a macro level – the UK economy.


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