Addressing the digital skills shortage

Olivia Miller
Picture by Unsplash

Demand for experts with artificial intelligence, cloud and robotics skills has increased rapidly in recent years as new technologies continue to emerge. With businesses struggling to fill job positions with these areas of expertise, there are concerns that there is a major digital skills shortage ahead. Dr Rogério de Lemos, Director of Graduate Studies (Taught) at the University’s School of Computing, has commented on how technical digital skills are critical to equip students for future interdisciplinary careers and how future software development should focus around shorter, more efficient use. He said:

‘There are several factors associated with a developing skills shortage, but there is currently a demand for software for a wide range of application areas outpacing the expertise that is available. In order to develop software more efficiently, there is the need for automating software development, but this requires highly skilled professionals for developing new tools and applying these tools. While higher education institutions are focusing on providing a strong basis that allow our graduates to flourish in using a wider range of tools and techniques, many industries want immediate technical skills. These skills require both time and practice.

‘There is also the need for more effective and efficient ways for developing software, which would support the skill demand. The end goal is to remove the role of software developer from conception to operation. We are a long way from this, but there are some industries that for the sake of agility are seeking solutions in which software development is highly automated. The traditional cycle where development and operation are two quite distinct activities does not match with current needs in which continuous delivery has become the norm. The goal is essentially to produce software in short cycles with greater speed and frequency. For example, a financial analyst wants to analyse some data using a specific set of computational tools. For that the analyst should not rely on a software engineer to develop the required environment, which takes time and is costly. Instead, the analyst should be able to put together software components and services that would allow them to perform the required analysis, and once finished the analyst should be able to discard the whole software.

‘At Kent we aim to provide the scientific basis and key technical skills from which our graduates are able to thrive in their future professions. Kent provides a wide range of courses from conversion to advanced that would enable our applicants to become specialists in areas which currently have a shortage of skills. With our conversion courses, we take applicants from any background and transform them into professionals that are able to apply their technical skills to a wide range of fields, including, artificial intelligence and cyber security. These two fields, in particular, are highly interdisciplinary hence the incentive for applicants from other fields to obtain additional digital skills. Regarding the advanced courses, we have tailored our Cyber Security MSc to the needs of the market, and that is why our course is one of the few in the country that is a fully certified course by the UK Government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).’