Midlands tech entrepreneur tackles skills shortage at Conservative Party Conference


Midlands tech-entrepreneur joined the recent Conservative Party Conference in Manchester to suggest ways businesses can work more closely with government to solve the digital skills challenge.

Sarah Windrum, CEO of The Emerald Group joined a panel together with Senior Executives from Samsung UK and the Policy Team for Schools Minister Nick Gibb, to discuss ways businesses and government can work together to tempt more young people towards a career in the digital sector. The IT Trade Association CompTIA recently reported that 45% of 1,507 IT executives are experiencing an “excessive” shortfall in IT talent.

At the event, Sarah Windrum stated: “Our first experience of the digital skills challenge came in 2014 when we won a large contract and had to double overnight. We could not find people who had the right attitude, were business aware, and technically trained ready to hit the ground running. We had to invest time, money, and energy in up-skilling people and this had a direct effect on our business growth and productivity.”

In addition to providing the voice of The Emerald Group to the Party Conference, Sarah Windrum was also speaking on behalf of Tech UK, a membership organisation representing technology businesses across the UK. A recent paper from Tech UK called for the development of a comprehensive map of the digital skills pipeline, stressing that the UK is currently not doing enough to bridge this gap. The CBI reinforced this message with a recent report that showed that more than half of employers in the UK fear they will not be able to recruit enough highly skilled workers over the next few years in the technology and digital sectors.

The recent launch of the new Careers and Enterprise Company has been a major step forward in uniting businesses and education. The employer led programme is independent of government and designed to take a lead role in transforming the provision of careers, enterprise and employer engagement experiences.

The Emerald Group, which provides mobile services, IT Managed Services and IT project management to small to medium sized businesses, is already proactively taking steps to further fill this skills void. Of its current team, nearly a third have been hired at a young age and nurtured throughout the business to reach more senior positions. For CEO Sarah Windrum, the trick is finding young people with the right enthusiasm and attitude to succeed in a career in digital, and teaching them the necessary skills through the workplace. But, her message is that more must be done to excite people about technology and digital from a young age in order to instill this passion and enthusiasm.

Sarah Windrum added: “The recently introduced Computing Curriculum is a great step towards finding a solution for the digital skills gap, but we need to make sure that teachers have the resources they require and that parents are engaged with these skills as having a direct benefit to their children’s futures.

Collaboration between education, government, and business is needed to ensure that young people with a passion for digital are identified early, and trained in jobs for the future. Digital skills are key if the UK is to remain a globally competitive economic nation and for our education system to continue to be the envy of the world.

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