2024 Insights: The Future of Learning Investment for UK Government

QA analysts delve into the thread of learning trends, examining external forces set to influence upskilling strategies and forecasting emerging needs.

A part of QA’s 2024 Learning Insights series. 

2024 already promises to be a pivotal year in UK public sector and government training. Using our proprietary learning investment data from over 4,000 organisations, plus external analysis, our QA analysts delve into the thread of learning trends, examining external forces set to influence upskilling strategies and forecasting emerging needs. 

Learning Trends & Insights: Unravelling the Digital Skills Imperative 

The Persistent Digital Skills Gap 

Despite the relentless march of digitalisation across workplaces, the chasm in digital skills remains glaring. Reports, such as the 2023 study by OnePoll for Forbes, underscore this reality, with a staggering "93% of UK businesses citing an IT skills gap." The rapid pace of technological advancements coupled with a dearth of training opportunities exacerbates this challenge, with "42% of businesses attributing the problem to the fast-evolving tech landscape." 

Macro Factors Shaping UK Digital Skills 

To discern the trajectory of training initiatives, it's helpful to scrutinise macro trends driving the UK's digital skills agenda: 

Global Geopolitics. EY's analysis highlights the twin forces of multipolarity and de-risking as dominant trends for 2024. Ongoing geopolitical uncertainties, compounded by events like the Ukraine and Mideast conflict, will have the next effect of “a hardening of the trend…toward a more fragmented global economy.” Additionally, Thomson Reuters emphasises the seismic impact of elections in some of the world’s biggest economies, with potential ramifications for how governments and businesses address digital skill gaps. 

UK Economic Landscape. Forecasts predict a gradual decline in the UK's inflation rate, buoyed by lower energy prices and subdued inflation in consumer goods. However, a cautious approach to public spending prevails amidst prevailing geopolitical and economic uncertainties, thereby constraining substantial investments in upskilling programmes. 

UK Employment Dynamics. The employment market reflects nuanced shifts, with indications of a softening labour market juxtaposed against limited intentions to shed existing staff. Notably, the 'year of resignation' seems to have abated, prompting businesses to pivot towards upskilling existing talent pools in lieu of aggressive hiring drives. 

Critical Technologies. The UK Science and Technology Framework has emphasised 5 critical technologies, including AI, engineering biology, and quantum, heralds a surge in demand for skilled professionals. While these investments augur well for the UK's tech ecosystem, the impact on digital skills acquisition remains contingent upon broader adoption rates and industry uptake. 

“The digital skills gap can be reduced through an influx of suitable qualified and experienced people, but this is highly unlikely to materialise in the short or medium term,” says Toby Barnard, MD for Public Sectorat QA.  “Instead, what’s needed is a different approach to managing your workforce, keeping them suitably trained and able to support the requirements of the UK.” 

Predictions: Charting a Course for Future Learning Investment 

Prioritising AI, Cloud, and Data Analyts 

Amidst the digital deluge, data analytics emerges as a linchpin skill set, poised for exponential growth in the coming years. Projections from DSIT suggest a 33% surge in demand for data analysis skills, underscoring the pivotal role of data-driven decision-making in this age of AI, Cloud, and Data. 

Leading Trends in Digital Upskilling 

QA's proprietary analysis of our internal data underscores sustained investment in pivotal domains such as Data; Project, Programme, and Portfolio Management (P3M); Agile and Lean; DevOps; Cyber Security, and IT Infrastructure. These domains are poised as likely portfolio areas for digital upskilling endeavours, aligning with industry demands and organisational imperatives. 

Strategic Imperatives for Organisations 

We believe organisations must adopt a proactive stance, delineating a robust digital skills roadmap. Embracing a skills-centric approach, fostering adaptability, and capitalising on emergent opportunities are hallmarks of a resilient upskilling strategy poised to thrive amidst uncertainty. 

”The critical technologies of AI, telecoms and semiconductors, will influence how we do business. But others, including quantum, are considered to be a longer-term requirement beyond 2024  To protect against technological changes, consider identifying the skills needed rather than focusing on traditional job roles, weigh up the short term versus the upturn needs, and think about what you’ll need to exploit the opportunities that will appear when the economy improves,” says Toby Barnard, MD for Public Sector at QA, in reference to his Government Transformation Magazine article.  

The contours of the learning and development landscape beckon the UK government and organisations to embark on a transformative journey. By embracing agility, foresight, and strategic investments, stakeholders can navigate the turbulent seas of change and emerge stronger in the era of digital disruption. 

To find out more about how QA’s learning solutions can help you upskill and reskill your talent, contact us today.  

Written by QA, with insights drawn from anonymised learning investment data and industry trends. 

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