The IT and digital skills shortage

As we near Q4 of 2021, global fintech is growing. Web and app developers are in demand. AI, robotics and automation are continually advancing, and cybersecurity is paramount.  The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the IT skills shortage as businesses see the increased value of IT skills and technical support. With the skills gap, the pressure isn’t just on for recruiting talent but for retaining talent too. This is especially true for software developers, as these tech specialists come under increasing pressure to keep up with employer demands and innovation.


Where it began

The IT skills shortage in the UK started long before the global Covid-19 pandemic, but March 2020 put significant pressure on IT departments as office-based businesses turned into virtual companies overnight, resulting in a greater reliance on technology and IT support. In the shift to homeworking, many businesses rushed employees out of the office, with cybersecurity as an afterthought. While many companies continue with remote working, or a hybrid mix in 2021, security measures and new software remain a constant issue.

According to The Perfect Storm: What COVID and Brexit means for the IT skills gap and why collaboration and automation is key, published in 2021 by Digital Workplace Consultancy, Qaixen, employers will see a sharp increase in demand for tech talent that has a unique skill set, spanning both DevOps and Security operations. One of the most important security skill sets throughout 2021 will be cloud platform-specific security tooling knowledge.


Mind the gap

The break-neck speed of technological innovation is a factor behind the ‘IT Skills Gap’. Workforce demand for specific IT job roles exceeds the supply of trained and qualified technicians. The pandemic has also increased the need for digital skills.  

A 2019 report by The Tech Partnership revealed nearly three-quarters of large companies, and 49% of smaller companies, are suffering from a major divide between the skills needed and those the staff currently possess. According to data released CW Jobs in 2020, companies need:

33% IT Support

23% Cybersecurity

18% Cloud

15% Artificial Intelligence

15% Coding

13% Data Analytics


According to a Project Management Institute report, there will be a demand for 88 million professionals for project management roles by the end of 2021. A Future of Jobs report lists Data Scientists as being most in demand by 2022.

Companies also need additional skills in internet and technical architecture and organisational change management. These shortages have led the Fast forward for digital jobs Taskforce (which includes BT, Google, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services) to ask the UK government to ensure industry skills certifications are eligible for support under the Lifetime Skills Guarantee.


Digital Skills

Recent projections indicate that a three million new jobs requiring digital skills will be created by 2025. The new-age digital skills include emerging technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, cybersecurity, internet of things (IoT) and robotics.

Despite digital acceleration in 2020, 69% of UK leaders believe their organisation has a digital skills gap. Recent reskilling and upskilling initiatives have been illustrated by Lloyds Bank’s UK Consumer digital index 2021. It shows that 17.1 million adults, 52% of the total workforce, lack the essential digital skills required for work – the pandemic has made the situation worse.

More companies are reporting trouble getting the digital skills they need. A Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Infosys study found most UK companies have unfilled digital vacancies. According the report Fast forward for digital jobs by tech UK there is now a ‘discrepancy’ between the upsurge in demand for digitally skilled workers in areas, such as coding, and the opportunity to retrain in these fields for those made redundant in the pandemic.  


Retaining specialist tech skills

The pressures felt by software teams could lead to a loss of talent and this is a concern among businesses, particularly as demand for developers and other skilled specialists grows.

Skills shortages, demand for smart technology and the ongoing chip shortage spells challenges for software teams. Businesses say they are worried about the wellbeing of their software development teams in the face of increased demand for 'smart' connected products and services. According to Tech Republic, as pressures on software teams grow, 65% of companies said they are concerned about developer wellbeing.


Developers are vulnerable to the challenges facing the digital ecosystem, with high demand for fast turnarounds and the need to combat complex development processes that create backlogs for teams.  The unpredicted need for rapid digital transformation has put a drain on developers who have not been equipped with the tools they need to manage the rate of change.

According to Forrester research, in Europe 58% of business leaders said they are concerned about developer wellbeing. In Europe, nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents to the QT and Forrester survey expressed concern about high developer turnover rate, compared to 19% in North America.


Cybersecurity Skills

Experienced cybersecurity specialists have never been so important - but there are not enough of them. Tech Nation recorded an increase in demand for cyber skills of 111% across the UK, and more than 400% in Northern Ireland. Research firm ‘Cybersecurity Ventures’ revealed that the total number of vacant cybersecurity jobs will reach 3.5 million worldwide this year, up from 1.4 million.



The welfare of software developers in today's fast-paced world has been overlooked as companies' digitally innovate in order to survive. Therefore, it is vital that employers with software development teams look at ways to retain their talent and consider workplace wellbeing.

For IT workers there are many great reasons to work in tech but employers often struggle to reach them. If you are looking for skilled IT and digital professionals, speak to Meraki Talent today.