In the first post from our ‘mind the gap’ series (which you can read here), we looked at some of the key figures currently affecting the UK when it comes to the digital skills gap. In this second instalment, we look in more detail at how the digital skills gap specifically impacts the public sector and their goals for digital transformation.

With budget squeezes and the forthcoming  Brexit transitions to think about, the sheer scale of the UK public sectors’ digital transformation requirements makes it seem like a huge mountain to climb. At the heart of this is a UK wide lack of skills needed to drive change, which results in the public sector competing with an already under-resourced private sector for the skills and resources needed.  Indeed when the Government set out its Digital Transformation Strategy in February 2017 they stated that “To develop and maintain our position as a leading global digital economy, we will need to develop a range of specialist digital skills to fill specific digital jobs. An estimated 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people are needed by 2022 to satisfy future skills needs”. 1

A National Audit office survey completed in May 2017 went on further to identify just how urgent the need for digital skills is. “Austerity and government reforms have highlighted the need for digitally-enabled business transformation to achieve cost reduction through major service redesign. To achieve this, however, government needs its digital and  technology profession to possess business change skills, to lead and govern digital transformation, understand business models and operational implications, and deliver organisational and cultural change.” (Yvonne Gallagher, director of digital value for money at the National Audit Office)  2

The Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) also undertook their own research in this area which “identified a pronounced difference in the impact of skills shortages on public sector organisations compared with private sector organisations, with double the amount of the former highlighting a lack of in-house skills as a pressure point during the migration process and a cause of dissatisfaction (24 per cent compared to just 12 per cent)”. 3

Of course migrating to the cloud is only one of the key areas of change, with a push for Government services to be truly digital across the board, offering value and ease for you and me, the citizens, (the end user).

In response to this need, we have seen a wealth of initiatives launched to help ensure that the workforce of tomorrow has the relevant skills needed to keep up with change, such as the recently launched Institute of Coding, (announced in January 18), which will see a consortium of more than 60 universities, businesses and industry experts receive £20 million to tackle the UK’s digital skills gap.

But, as we outlined in our previous piece, time (and technology) wait for no man. And UK PLC doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for the next generation to pick up the reins. The need to drive efficiency, and keep up with the rest of the world, means that change needs to be delivered sooner rather than later. As a result, the best way forward is to ‘borrow’ the skills and knowledge needed from the private sector through key strategic partnerships.

Of course, people hear the word ‘outsourcing’ and imagine the worse, (Carillion, of course springs to mind), but new ways of outsourcing have been championed which allows government to engage with SME’s and specialist providers in a more simple and transparent way, allowing government organisations to access key skills without placing all their eggs in one ‘digital’ basket.

Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington  said in June this year that “Outsourcing delivers economies of scale that mean services can be provided more efficiently, at lower cost and at better value for the taxpayers…research commissioned by the previous government has shown that outsourcing delivers savings of some 20 to 30%, compared with bringing services in-house.

While government has considerable resources at its disposal, it cannot do everything by itself. It needs the dynamism and innovation that only a healthy, diverse marketplace of suppliers can provide”.

Enter the G-Cloud and the Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS) vehicles, which represent a fresh approach to sourcing expertise and partners who can help drive digital change. And it’s an approach that’s clearly working. A report earlier this year revealed that since the launch of G-Cloud in March 2012, The Government and other public sector organisations have spent more than £3.2bn on digital, data and technology services and 48% of this was spent with SMEs. This means that £1.43 out of every £3 is going to SMEs.

This makes the ‘outsourcing’ of digital skills a very unique beast, and at least for now, offers a very viable way to plug the gap.

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