Alexia Pedersen, VP of EMEA at O’Reilly

Demand is outgrowing skills in vertical industries

Lack of resources and leadership support stifles upskilling efforts

According to new research from O’Reilly, the demand for digitally skilled workers in UK vertical industries, including technology, finance, e-commerce, and retail, is outgrowing the level of digital skills available.

Despite this, only 51% of British companies within these industries are willing to spend more than £25,000 on recruitment and learning and development to boost skills such as cybersecurity, software architecture, and data analysis.

Three hundred HR decision-makers within the technology, finance, e-commerce, and retail industries were surveyed to find out which digital skills are most in demand. The research, conducted by Censuswide in September 2022, also looked at the potential barriers to upskilling staff.

The research found that 27% of the HR decision-makers believe their organisation faces the biggest lack of skilled workers in cybersecurity, followed by software architecture at 15%, and data analysis at 14%.

Yet, only 33% are willing to spend more than £10,000 on recruitment and L&D to hire cybersecurity talent. Seventy-one percent of organisations will spend no more than £10,000 on recruitment and L&D for data analysis, and 68% said the same about software architecture skills.

On the other hand, 32% of organisations are planning to spend £20,000 or more on recruitment for AI and ML and 31% on cloud. More than a quarter of organisations will spend up to or more than £20,000 on AI and ML (29%) and cloud (28%) L&D to upskill employees.

The research also found that over the next 12 months, organisations will spend an average of:

  • £13,962 on L&D for Gen Z
  • £13,608 for Millennials
  • £13,495 for Gen X

The majority (83%) of vertical industries plan to spend between £25,000 – £50,000 on overall recruitment for skilled tech vacancies over the next twelve months; however, only 78% will spend the same amount on tech-related L&D.

Looking at each sector, the research revealed that:

  • The technology sector is planning to spend an average of £33,676 on recruitment and £31,651 on L&D.
  • The finance sector will spend an average of £33,075 on recruitment and £31,400 on L&D.
  • The retail and e-commerce sector will spend an average of £29,275 on recruitment and £28,801 on L&D.

The research found that the biggest barriers to upskilling current employees are : Insufficient resources (21%); lack of internal personnel (19%); lack of internal buy-in (17%).

In the tech sector, 21% of organisations agreed that lack of leadership support is a key barrier to upskilling current employees. Conversely, across all industries combined, 58% of HR decision-makers said that they are ‘significantly’ supported by leadership when it comes to investment in tech-related L&D.

Alexia Pedersen, VP of EMEA at O’Reilly, commented: “It’s encouraging that 80% of companies within the UK’s tech, finance and retail sectors have increased investment for tech-related learning and development over the past three years. However, our data suggests that further investment is needed to recession-proof the UK’s vertical industries.”

“With the pound currently at a 37-year low against the dollar, now is the time for companies to deploy upskilling programmes alongside ongoing recruitment efforts. Likewise, employees should prioritise L&D to safeguard their role and make themselves an invaluable asset to their organisation. This will be key to creating a highly skilled workforce that keeps British businesses at the forefront of their industries globally.”

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