Russ Shaw on Closing the Skills Gap

Russ Shaw in Conversation about the digital skills gap

Russ Shaw, Founder of Tech London Advocates (TLA) & Global Tech Advocates, and Sarah Luxford, leader of TLA Women in Tech discussed the prevailing skills gap, and offered insights to one of the greatest challenges the tech industry faces.

BeyondTech 2019 conference was held 1-2 May at Code Node and sponsored by Skills Matter, and covered several themes: Responsible AI, Diversity & Inclusivity, Tech for Good & Closing the Skills Gap. It was forum to promote real actions that could be taken to create a diverse and inclusive ecosystem.

Russ was introduced by Sarah and gave the background to TLA London formation in April 2013 as a Not for Profit. The body has seen tremendous growth since then with many working & vertical groups, and it’s all about community and volunteers.

The conversation then focused on the inclusion issue and lack of diversity and actions to take, involving everyone in the tech ecosystem.

Gender based diversity issue: Sarah explained that TLAWomeninTech agenda included helping with women on “impact sessions to upskill, negotiate pay, get their voices heard and networking on purpose.” They also worked on the ‘Gender Pay Analysis’ and analysed data from over 300 submissions when the Govt Gender pay gap report was released. They then took action and set up a forum with the Tech company CEO’s when they realized the issue was only taken at the HR level, with no concrete action plans to remedy the gap.

Russ Shaw at Beyond Tech
Russ Shaw at Beyond Tech

TLA The Road to One Million campaign was launched by TLA London in November 2018, with a vision to harness the power of the private sector to address the shortage of digital skills in the UK economy and create one million tech jobs by 2023. London’s tech companies currently employ 318,480 people in digital jobs (Tech Nation). Job creation in the digital sector is growing and there is a vacancy issue with a struggle to fill jobs. There is also a need for an overhaul of the recruitment process.T

Emerging tech which includes Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Data Analytics has led to a displacement of low skill jobs and there needs to be an emphasis on ‘Life Long Learning’ to upskill. Emerging trends can be evidenced by the increased use of AI & ML in various sectors, i.e. legal and financial services sector.

Soft skills are also essential and this includes problem solving, creative thinking, strategy, which have been found to be essential to a credible employability path. Good start has been made with an instance of Ada College (16 – 18 years) sponsored by Mayor of London and private sector. Harvey Nash has also introduced the ‘Future Skills Programme’ training for apprentices.

“Technology is going to alter the world of work. We can’t prevent it, but we can help it, by giving people the right skills.”

Round Table Session was led by Femi Owolade-Coombes @hackerfemo who based this on Youth-Led Inclusion. Femi, at 13 years of age, gave an inspiring talk on his programme running Raspberry Pi code clubs for youngsters all round the UK and overseas. He showed the the importance of youth-led inclusion and the benefits of teaching tech to close the skills gap, and then took questions from the audience.

Wendy Devolder at Skills Matter
Wendy Devolder Founder, Skills Matter

Skills Matters CEO Wendy Developer contributed a key topic on Day 2 on “How Continuous Learning Helps Closing the Skills Gap In Software Engineering and Development”. She explained Skills that will matter in the future – continual learning skills, critical thinking skills, creativity, empathy & socialising. We need to help next generation explore the diversity of the areas of technology that they can get into. And a great quote from her

“Learning continuously new skills becomes more important than having them”.


Vidocast for Russ Shaw Keynote can be found here

LBAcademy is a UK Business Growth Hub that provides digital skill and talent training to Tech & Creative Startups for high growth.