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Is the plan to nurture homegrown investors key to supercharging UK STEM?

Jeremy Hunt is to announce US-inspired science and technology scheme that plans to nurture homegrown investors focused on ensuring UK innovations have commercial payoff, but why is the digital skills gap still left unaddressed? 

It was announced early on November 20th that Jeremy Hunt would use his autumn statement to announce a US-inspired scheme aimed at developing homegrown science and technology investors to help ensure UK innovations have a commercial payoff.

Amid concern in government that Britain often fails to exploit scientific breakthroughs, the chancellor is expected to announce plans for a fellowship programme that will train a new generation of science and technology venture capitalists. It is believed that a modest investment will nurture specialist venture investors who will help boost growth and generate breakthroughs in areas such as vaccines, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Hunt believes his scheme will; “address the council’s point that the UK’s venture capital industry needs to continue to develop deep science and technology expertise if the government is to achieve its aim of making the UK a science superpower.”


A step too soon?

It's great news – in theory. The UK government is realising the impact of digital innovation and how the British science and technology industry holds the key to exponential growth that could turbocharge our economy for decades to come. But is the investment – expected to be close to £3 million - misplaced?

This scheme will produce a new generation of investment experts to help capitalise on British-bred innovation, but the type of innovative skills needed to propel employees toward new discoveries, methodologies, products and services, remain significantly threatened by a digital skills gap.

Out of 500 businesses surveyed in the IT Skills Gap report 2023, 93% report a gap in IT skills within the UK jobs market. A significant 42% of these businesses say the problem is due to the fast pace of technological advancements and the lack of quality digital education preparing people for fast-moving IT innovation. Research commissioned by Salesforce found that workers rank digital skills as the most important skill for the current and future workplace but more than a quarter [27%] do not feel confident in any digital capabilities – they simply do not feel they are best prepared to their job well.  


Building a workforce fit for the future

Whilst Jeremy Hunt and the government have correctly identified one of the most pressing challenges for the UK in its digital economy, today’s announcement seems focused on leaping towards the ambition of being commercially competitive as a STEM superpower, without building and completing a roadmap for action that could make this a reality. This roadmap needs to include:

  • Strategy: Establishing a national ambition to close the digital skills gap, led by government, employers, training providers and traditional education.
  • Delivery: A call to action to businesses to train and upskill people so they have the essential digital skills needed for work,
  • Culture: Create a culture change that encourages people to develop essential digital skills, or consider technology careers despite coming from underrepresented backgrounds.

Access to a quality STEM education encourages not only competency in digital and science skills, but also self-confidence in people’s ability to stretch and test the limits of what they can do with innovating in these areas. Opportunities to grow digital skills in schools, universities, or pre-employment through alternative models, are particularly important for those without access to technology at home too – one in five young people from lower socioeconomic groups lack access to a laptop, desktop or tablet leaving them at risk of being left behind. These are the steps that should be a priority to the British government today.


Invest in your future leaders

At Sparta Global, we believe traditional talent attraction excludes much of the UK’s highest potential people. This is why Sparta Global is bridging the digital skills gap by hiring, training, and developing passionate people from largely underrepresented communities. By removing barriers to entry for those from non-STEM backgrounds and minority groups, we are building a pipeline of future leaders who have diverse thoughts and perspectives that will add significant value to our client partners, and the wider British economy.

You can find out more about how Sparta Global can supporting closing your digital skills gaps, and adding social value, through its B Corp certified HTD model here. 

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