Dan Blake, Managing Director EMEA, Claris, explores how the UK can close its growing skills gap with low code
Job vacancies in the United Kingdom (UK) are skyrocketing. The number of jobs on offer has now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, with 862,000 jobs on offer earlier this year between April and June. That’s about 77,500 more jobs offered than the first three months of 2020, according to The Office for National Statistics. Whilst an increase in job vacancies might sound like a good thing to some, this points to a major problem for businesses: digital skills shortages.
COVID-19 has brought into focus the need for employees with digital skills and the benefits they bring to everyone across the UK. One survey conducted by McKinsey found that companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions, as well as their internal operations by three to four years, and the share of digital or digitally enabled products in companies’ portfolios has accelerated by seven years. However, as businesses rapidly implement the necessary tech to keep up with changing consumer demands, it is apparent that the development skills gap looms over employers.
The Open University Business Barometer has previously estimated the skills gap costs UK organisations £6.3 billion, largely due to increased time and resources needed for employee recruitment. A study by consulting firm KPMG has also revealed that starting salaries are rising at record rates due to shortages in candidates, as talented employees find themselves in stronger positions to negotiate higher salaries. Clearly, upskilling employees cannot wait, and employers must turn to digital tools, such as low code software, to quickly adapt to rapidly evolving consumer demands.
Demand for IT jobs intensifies
During the pandemic, our society – practically overnight – became reliant on technology to keep us connected and to keep businesses running in nearly every industry. As companies shifted to working from home, information technology (IT) job vacancies dominated the London hiring market, with July 2020 seeing the escalated number of active job postings in the UK reach a million in one week.
As the adoption of digital processes increases rapidly, the demand for highly skilled tech workers will continue to rise, but a significant barrier to increased adoption of tech and subsequent digital transformation is inadequate expertise or resources. The UK Government has already taken steps to close IT skills gaps through various programmes including the Lifetime Skills Guarantee program, which aims to transform the training and skills system in the UK. This instruction includes Skills Bootcamps and intensive courses in various tech subjects, such as data analysis, digital marketing, web development, and cybersecurity.
However, whilst training opportunities like these are crucial to close the IT gap, this solution is a long-term plan and doesn’t offer an immediate solution to the current need for highly skilled employees. Organisations now need to consider using their existing employees as citizen developers, who can help a business digitally transform and quickly pivot to digital processes.
Low code helps bridge the gap
Any organisation wanting to remain agile should consider citizen developers – individuals who have limited coding skills and can use low code technologies to create custom applications and digital services. Regardless of programming experience, low-code development allows for the creation of fast, easy, and customised apps to solve unique business problems.
Low code platforms provide a foundation that allows individuals with some tech-savviness to create custom apps and build upon them to unlimited levels of functionality and complexity. Unlike traditional application development, with low code platforms, individuals can build apps using familiar tools like drag-and-drop and point-and-click, which makes low code development easy and intuitive for a variety of users. Additionally, low code platforms are ideal for hybrid and remote workforces. Employees can deploy low code applications to a remote workforce quickly and easily as the software exists across a cloud or an on-premise network, ideal for a more distributed workforce post-pandemic.
Moreover, with the average salary for a software developer in the UK being £46,541, many businesses, especially small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs), are not in a position to hire a software developer or compete with the biggest players to hire skilled technical staff. As a result, many SMBs use low code development platforms that enable companies and employees at various skill levels to digitise manual processes. With low code platforms, SMBs can train existing staff to fully utilise these platforms to increase automation of redundant, rules-based, and time-consuming tasks, which not only saves on the costs of recruitment or hiring third-party developers but also increases employee satisfaction by adding a new skill set and contributing to the organisation.
Gartner predicts that by 2024 nearly 75% of organisations will use at least four low code development tools for app creation and digital initiatives. Citizen developers are increasingly critical to democratising these software development processes, and firms who move quickly and adopt low code software will be the ones able to construct long-term, agile business models, which are essential to pivot in the wake of urgent events like COVID-19.