A more diverse workforce is essential if London is to reach a target of a million tech jobs by 2023, Tech London Advocates said this week – as Labour’s Liam Byrne warned that two million UK jobs were at risk from automation. Julian Blake reports.
Greater diversity is key to London’s digital skills shortage and the economy’s ability to reach a target of a million tech jobs in the next five years, digital coalition Tech London Advocates said this week, as it launched a new pledge campaign to hit the million jobs target by 2023.
Using data from jobs platform Adzuna, TLA said London tech companies currently employed 318,480 people – meaning the numbers working in tech must treble in five years to hit the 2023 target. It said more diversity, graduates and visas were key to helping reaching the target.
“Despite the extraordinary success of British tech companies over the past five years, the industry is in danger of leaving huge swathes of the population behind,” TLA said. “We have 48,297 technology vacancies currently advertised in London, yet women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community and young people are massively under-represented in the tech workforce.”
TLA’s #RoadToOneMillion pledge statement – launched at a TLA event on Tuesday at Mansion House in the City of London (pictured) – says that to reach 1m tech employees by 2023, “the city needs to be bringing 10,000 people into tech-related employment every single month”.
In a stark warning to the pledge launch event, Labour’s digital spokesman Liam Byrne (pictured) said impending automation by artificial intelligence risked the loss of two million existing jobs. “We know that the trends in automation and Ai will bring our economy all kinds of growth, with trillions pounds of growth created by 2033,” he said. “But there are many jobs today that will go, and those jobs are predominantly working class jobs.”
The two million jobs Byrne said were at risk were “five times more jobs than the shut-down of the coal industry and steel industry put together. If we think that the populism that we see today after 30 years of globalisation is difficult, just wait and see what happens unless we construct a project that allows the new wealth that we know will be created to be wealth that is fairly shared.”
On Tuesday Byrne unveiled a new ‘people’s plan for digital’ on skills for a digital age.
TLA’s #RoadToOneMillion pledge – key points
Gender – “Tech has a diversity problem” said TLA, with 51% of London’s population female, yet accounting for only 17% of the city’s tech workforce. “Bringing more women into tech companies will have a dramatic impact on the scale of London’s tech employment landscape.”
TLA wants the sector to achieve 33% gender diversity in the next five years, “essential for unlocking the potential of the entire nation. It has been shown that tech companies now woefully lag behind FTSE 100 organisations for the number of women in executive positions.”
“We must also increase funding for female-run businesses (currently only at 9%), to grow their ventures and inspire more to join the sector. Encouraging more females to join investment firms will help to attract and identify female entrepreneurs, increasing the likelihood of funding,” said TLA.
Diversity – “Too many socio-economic and ethnic groups are underrepresented in the technology sector,” said TLA. “Well-designed quotas would bring about transformation at a senior level, forcing a top-down change to the culture of fast-growth tech businesses.
“Tech London Advocates is supporting calls to implement diversity quotas for senior leadership teams in tech. The private sector must also commit to funding and engaging with initiatives like UK Black Tech, to bring more BAME talent into tech.”
Graduates – London is not producing enough home-grown tech talent to meet demand, said TLA, pointing to a falling number of computer science graduates and not enough older professionals etraining with digital skills. “We need to triple London’s capacity to produce computer science graduates by 2023,” it said.
“Tech London Advocates is suggesting that all university students should be given at least one week’s coding education to support the digital talent pipeline ready for the workplace and to inspire young talent to develop these skills,” said the pledge.
Visas – TLA said the tech sector supported the Tech Nation Visa, but said the route must “continue to allow world leading tech talent to work in the UK”. Tier 2 sponsor licensing (for skilled workers with long-term job offers) “can be a costly and cumbersome process especially for tech startups”, it added. “Early-stage businesses should be allowed to benefit from third party sponsorship in order to fill critical positions quickly. The government must review the Tier 2 cap and ensure that it does not remain over-subscribed.
TLA welcomed the new start up visa announced this summer by the UK government as “a step in the right direction”, but said the tech sector should be consulted before it is launched “to ensure that it is fit for purpose”.
“More must be done to guarantee London attracts world-class international tech talent post-Brexit by expanding visa routes specifically dedicated to tech companies,” said TLA.
“Securing a million tech jobs in London by 2023 will quell the current shortage of talent and facilitate growth within an industry with truly transformative potential,” the pledge concluded. “The tech sector can remain Britain’s stand out industry and signpost the UK as an ambitious country at the forefront of global innovation post-Brexit.”