DCMS calls on business to help fight growing skills gap

Matthew Gould warns that "we can't do this ourselves"

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has highlighted the need for Britain to close the skills gap currently threatening the country's tech sector.

Speaking at Microsoft's Transform conference in London, the department's director-general for digital and media, Matthew Gould, warned that Britain is in danger of becoming a nation of "the digital haves and the digital have-nots".

"Whether you're an entrepreneur from the UK starting your startup or whether you're Microsoft looking to invest in the UK, you need to know that you can get the skills you need," he said.

"A fifth of adults in the UK lack very basic digital skills. One in ten adults say they don't use the internet. A quarter of small businesses and charities say that digital is irrelevant to them."

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"Just think about the implications of that for a moment. That means there are literally hundreds of thousands, millions of people in the UK, who aren't able to be part of this exciting digital economy that we're creating."

Gould praised recent advancements made by the government in addressing this issue, including implementing a new computing curriculum and making coding compulsory from the age of eight, but also acknowledged that there is still a long way to go.

He echoed warnings from Carsten Maple, the chairman of the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing. Maple pointed out that if the UK tech sector wants to take advantage of the benefits of big data, we need experts who are fluent in areas like data science and analytics.

"What we want to make sure is that we provide people can help transform society and business," he said. "We need the public to be computer-literate, but we need specialist computer scientists to be at the heart of the continuing digital revolution."

"We see the importance that the digital economy has to the future, prosperity and wellbeing of this country, and we are putting in place the essential building blocks to make that a success," Gould promised but called on businesses to help the government in supporting the continuing development of the UK tech sector.

"We can't do this ourselves. We need partners; we need you," he said. "We're all going to have to be part of this story, and I'm very much looking forward to working with you on it."

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