93% of UK employers identify an IT skills gap within the UK job market

A new study from Forbes Advisor has unveiled that a staggering 93% of employers perceive there to be an IT skills gap within the UK job market.

The experts at the price comparison and guidance platform surveyed 500 UK businesses across a range of sectors, including business, consulting and management, engineering and education, to find out what IT skills they are most lacking, as well as what measures they are taking to bridge the skills gap.

Reasons for the IT skills gap

When examining the primary reasons behind the IT skills gap, more than two in five businesses (42%) attribute the issue to the rapid pace of technological advancements. Training and development challenges were identified by two in five businesses (41%) while over a third (37%) cite a lack of relevant educational programmes.

More than a third of businesses (35%) expressed concerns about competition and the scarcity of qualified candidates. Additionally, more than a quarter of businesses (29%) pointed to salary disparities across the sector as a contributing factor.

Key factors contributing to the IT skills gap

  • Rapid technologies advancements
  • Insufficient training opportunities
  • Lack of relevant educational programmes
  • Competitive job market
  • Salary disparities between industries
  • Low attraction of IT careers
  • Other

What are the most in-demand IT skills in the UK jobs market?

The skill that emerged as a top priority for employers in 2023 is within artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Overall, two in five employers (40%) consider this to be the most sought-after skill in the UK jobs market.

This sentiment is particularly echoed by key decision-makers in organisations. Three quarters (75%) of business chairpeople and more than two thirds (71%) of business partners believe that skills in AI hold the greatest value in today’s job market.

Following closely are two other indispensable technology skills, IT support and troubleshooting (32%) and cybersecurity (30%).

Top IT skills in demand

  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • IT support and troubleshooting
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data analysis and data science
  • Programming (e.g., Java, Python, C++)
  • Cloud computing (e.g., AWS, Azure)
  • Mobile app development
  • Project management
  • Network administration
  • DevOps and automation

Further research highlights how so-called ‘soft skills’ play a key role alongside technical expertise for employers. When questioned on the most vital soft skills for IT professionals to possess, more than half of employers (55%) identified problem-solving, which encompasses analytical skills, critical thinking and troubleshooting.

Following closely behind is adaptability (52%), highlighting the importance of embracing change and learning new skills in an ever-evolving industry. Teamwork holds an equal importance (52%), with collaborative efforts and cooperation highlighted as a top skill within a fast-paced IT environment.

Regarding soft skills for IT professionals, two in five businesses (40%) cite ‘effective communication’ – ensuring they can convey ideas through various channels. More than a quarter of businesses (28%) rank leadership as an essential skill, with vision, motivation, and delegation key for guiding teams and strategies.

How are businesses aiming to bridge the IT skills gap?

Research has uncovered the ways in which British businesses are rising to the challenge of the IT skills gap by implementing innovative strategies. More than one-third of businesses (34%) have invested in internal training programmes to upskill their workforce.

Following closely, nearly one-third of businesses (31%) outsource their IT projects to specialised providers or consultants. Additionally, 30% are investing in top talent by offering IT experts higher salaries or incentives, and likewise, more than one-quarter (28%) are actively headhunting candidates from other companies.

Collaboration with educational institutes is also proving popular, with more than a quarter (28%) of businesses partnering with educational institutions to bridge the gap between IT skill demand and supply.

Businesses may also wish to consider DIY solutions to their fundamental IT needs, such as developing and enhancing their online presence. An increasing number of relatively low cost, off-the-shelf solutions can be used by non-IT specialists to enable a business to punch above its weight in an IT context.

Mark Hooson, technology reporter at Forbes Advisor, said: “Small businesses may be able to tackle the IT skills gap with useful software and website builders. These resources can empower businesses to navigate technology challenges, even without a full IT team.

“Website builders offer customisable templates and modules, which means there’s no need for complex coding. Also, software can automate routine tasks and facilitate communication, reducing the reliance on technical expertise.”