Sectors where the basic technical skills gap is more prevalent

Throughout the UK there is a high proportion of workers and businesses that appear to lack the basic technical skills required to manage and maintain their cyber security.

Figures from a 2023 ‘Cyber security skills in the UK labour market’ report, conducted by IPSOS(1), find that approximately 739,000 businesses (50%) have a basic skills gap. However, this was far more prevalent in certain sectors and industries than others.

For those non-cyber sectors, industries with a significant skills gap include the manufacturing and construction industries which are both facing their own recruitment struggles, whilst dealing with an ageing workforce and a lack of interest from younger generations.

In this article we will delve into the complexities and challenges of a technical skills gap, the reasons for this and ways to bridge this gap in the most technologically challenged sectors. 

What is the technical skills gap?

The technical skills gap refers to a prevalent lack of technical expertise throughout the nation’s workforce. With a particular focus on an understanding of cyber security and an ability to implement imperative security defences in a digital landscape that is incredibly vulnerable to the threat of cyber attack. Businesses of all sizes are at risk of cyber attacks so certain technical skills are essential for bolstering defences, such as: 

Setting up configured firewalls

  • Detecting And Removing Malware, Storing Or Transferring Personal Data Securely
  • Restricting Software That Runs On Business Owned Devices

However, while businesses are aware that these types of skills are required, the IPSOS report found that these areas were where skills gaps are most prevalent. 

Why do certain sectors struggle to keep up with technical advancements?

With a spike in digital transformation and a rapid growth across technical services, there are several industries and sectors that have, unfortunately, been left behind. Whether this is because of a lack of funds for training or recruitment, struggling with a talent shortage or there’s been no compliance or regulatory demand for change, some industries throughout the UK are being left in the ‘digital dust’. 

Industries that have, for decades, strayed away from new technology are typically those who are now facing the challenges of having to ‘catch up’ and are drastically needing to adapt and grow, in order to keep up with the digital world. 

Bridging the skills gap across UK businesses

In order to bridge the skills gap throughout the UK, there are several areas in which businesses can focus their efforts but also faster solutions. 

Outsourcing Cyber Security 

Outsourcing cyber security services, in particular, is an excellent opportunity to springboard developments and to make sure that a business has the necessary resources and defences in the digital age to defend themselves against the rising threat of cyber attacks. In fact, according to Forbes, 33% of businesses outsource some aspect of their cyber security. However, this doesn’t necessarily work to fix the sectoral issue of the skills gap but instead looks for an external solution. 

More Focus On Cyber Security From Management Boards 

Another way to bridge the skills gap in cyber security is for management boards to prioritise and invest more resources into this area. This includes not only financial investments but also promoting a culture of cyber security awareness within the company. By having top-level support and involvement, employees will be more likely to take cyber security seriously and some may want to develop their skills in this area. 

Cyber security awareness training can cover the basics for all staff members but a dedicated program can also be put together specifically for management boards. Armed with this knowledge, they can start to appreciate the business’ cyber security resilience, wanting to find weaknesses and understand how to make improvements. 

Additionally, having designated roles and responsibilities for cyber security within the management team can ensure that it is a top priority as there will always be one person with this at the forefront. 

Investing In Training And Development 

Businesses should also invest in training and development programs for their IT team to fill in any gaps in skills. This not only benefits the company by improving their overall level of cyber security, but it also demonstrates to employees that the company values their growth and development, creating a fantastic work culture for current and future staff. 

In the UK, apprenticeships and university student placements are a fantastic way to work towards closing the skills gap as you will be helping the next generation. For internal staff, there are multiple options possible ranging from courses in certain technology subjects or hosted by specific vendors relating to their products. 

To close the skills gap within a specific industry, there tends to be no silver bullet and instead a multistep approach needs to be taken. The right people within a business must be on board and understand the importance so that strategic goals can be put in place and the right resources allocated. 

Cyber Security Awareness Training 

Offered by a wide range of cyber security specialists and cyber advisors, cyber security awareness training can cover the basics for all members of a team from the management board to the executives and interns. Armed with this knowledge, businesses are much more likely to be able to spot their own cyber security weaknesses and vulnerabilities and understand where and how to make improvements.