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UK tech SMEs investing in young talent despite tough economy
Wed, 7th Feb 2024

Despite facing a challenging financial climate, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) within the UK’s tech sector are demonstrating optimism and resilience, with 69% reported to be investing in young talent through low-cost recruitment tactics. This encouraging statistic was reported in this year's Skills Horizon Barometer, providing a snapshot into the challenges and opportunities for SME owners in 2024.

The report reveals an increased appetite for technical education, as confidence is boosted by success stories. An impressive 80% of tech SMEs report observing other businesses benefiting from technical education routes. Technical education opportunities, whether they are staff training or direct recruitment, provide economic ways of upskilling and recruiting (55%) and are recognised as top benefits by tech SMEs. Furthermore, these routes allow businesses to help shape syllabuses to meet their own needs (55%).

Encouragingly, the report indicates tech SMEs' business outlook remains overwhelmingly positive despite the economic landscape. An impressive 95% of tech SMEs plan to grow their revenue this year. This positive outlook is echoed in the personal insight of James Scudder, Founder of IT firm, 76 Services based in Buckinghamshire. Scudder highlighted the significant benefits of working closely with colleges to host T Level industry placement students as an effective way of widening their talent pipeline.

The report, launched by the Skills for Life campaign under the umbrella of the national Department for Education, was released as the country celebrates National Apprenticeship Week. It aims to provide a deeper understanding of the challenges, opportunities, and solutions for SMEs. Alongside this, the campaign also advocates for the availability and advantages of various training and employment schemes, such as apprenticeships, T Levels, Skills Bootcamps, HTQs, and Multiply numeracy courses.

The Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education, Robert Halfon, praised the optimistic forecasts for growth and credited this shift to the crucial government investment in skills. He stated, "We’ve transformed the skills landscape with expanded apprenticeships and new T Levels, revolutionising opportunities for young people to climb the ladder of opportunity towards their first job or further study and giving businesses the skills they need to thrive."

A representative from the British Chambers of Commerce, Jane Gratton, echoed these sentiments, emphasising the importance of a skilled and diverse workforce for the country's economic future. She said, "Investing in a skilled and diverse workforce makes good business sense and is crucial to addressing the economic challenges and opportunities that lie ahead." She went on to state that businesses are seeking to develop their workforce on the job to address the evolving demand for new skills and knowledge."

The Skills Horizon Barometer offers an optimistic perspective during the National Apprenticeship Week, celebrating the positive impact apprenticeships, T Levels, and similar schemes have on local communities, businesses, and the wider economy.