Today, Microsoft Tech Summit in Birmingham opened to approximately 2,000 people at the NEC. It kick started a 2-day event that will teach attendees (and people viewing the on-demand content after the fact) about the latest in Microsoft's broad line-up of technology. So large, in fact, that there are 13 tracks, each with multiple sessions being presented across the day.
With that in mind, it was no surprise to see a fully-booked keynote hall!
— Microsoft Developer (@msdevUK) March 27, 2017
Keynoting the event was Cindy Rose, UK CEO of Microsoft and Area Vice President. Kicking off Tech Summit, she mentioned that there was no more appropriate place to talk about a 4th industrial revolution than in Birmingham, a city of innovation that saw the introduction of casting iron, gas lights and the steam engine.
Welcoming in this new industrial revolution is technology such as cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence and the internet of things. It's Microsoft's hope that it'll become not just a participant, but a leader in moving these technologies forward, so that everyone will be able to take advantage of the promises and opportunities that they offer.
However, to get to that point, there must first be a strong community of talented IT professionals. The truth is that the UK has a skills gap - a gap between the critical technology skills that the industry needs and what is currently available. To close this gap, there needs to be action and cooperation between the government, businesses and IT professionals.
We know this due to a survey we recently conducted with technical and IT leaders about the current state of cloud skills in the UK. Following Cindy's announcement at Tech Summit today, the results of this survey are now available online.
Cindy continued by giving further details on the skills gap, showing that more than 80% of the technical leaders that were surveyed believe that cloud skills are vital to the success of their digital transformation strategies. Unfortunately, more than a third are struggling to find people with the right cloud skills to fill key roles, blocking this transformation effort. There is going to be a huge challenge in skilling up thousands of people to meet this demand.
There will also need to be a major overhaul of the UK's cloud skills ecosystem. According to the Hays Global Skills Index, 2016 marked the fifth consecutive year of a rising UK skills shortage, notably in technology and engineering roles in which cloud computing falls into.
This is just one part of the overhaul that's required. Another big focus has to be on women.
Responses to the survey stated that, on average, only 20% of their teams were female. This is certainly a well-known problem in the industry, but it only stands to get worse with the skills gap. With added uncertainty with regards to future immigration laws, we can't rely on acquiring talent from overseas.
On top of this, almost two thirds of organisations currently have no plans to address gender imbalance.
Companies need to develop plans to bring more women into the IT workforce. At Microsoft, we have transformed our recruitment approach and are beginning to see an impact. It is important for the future IT skill base of the country that this becomes the new normal.
Closing the keynote, Cindy took a look at current plans to address the skills shortage. The government’s own digital strategy aims to help rectify this skills issue and shrink the gap, although it also rightly calls for IT businesses to play their part.
Microsoft is contributing to this effort, from teaching basic digital literacy and supporting apprenticeships, to helping IT professionals becoming cloud technology experts. It is our goal that everyone in the UK has the opportunity to keep developing their skills, and that they are able to seize opportunities.
Last month we announced a comprehensive national skills programme to boost digital skills, to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of the global cloud-enabled economy. This includes:
- Offering free digital literacy training to everyone in the UK;
- Training 30,000 civil servants in the delivery of digital services to citizens;
- Creating 30,000 new digital apprenticeship roles through the Microsoft apprenticeships programme;
- Training 500,000 people to be cloud technology experts through our cloud skills initiative.
The majority of this training is free, and we’ve also significantly reduced the cost for those who are looking at certification. While most employers have said that they were willing to recruit without certification, the salary boost to certified professionals was clear – a median increase of £100 per day, with one in ten willing to pay a premium of over £300 per day.