The Fourth Industrial Revolution has already accelerated change across organisations within almost every field and has created new opportunities for professionals to expand their skill sets in a range of areas. Within the UK tech sector, this change is even more intensified. 

The UK is rightly recognised as one of the global tech leaders along with nations like China and the USA; however, in order to maximise the potential of Industry 4.0, we need more talent with the right skills. These individuals will drive forward UK tech growth, but a combination of factors, including external forces such as Brexit and the pandemic, mean that many firms will struggle to source the skills they need to ride the crest of the industrial revolution wave. But what can they do to ensure the UK remains a global leader and guarantee it has the skills required to capitalise on opportunities borne out of the next industrial revolution? 


The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents a fundamental societal shift driven by extraordinary advances in tech and the UK, as the third leading global tech economy, is in an ideal position to harness the opportunities this presents. 

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that UK tech is booming at the moment. The industry reached $1tn in value earlier this year, making it only the third country to ever reach this milestone behind China and the USA. This positions us ahead of our European counterparts, with the sector worth more than double Germany’s and three times more than France’s. 

In addition, there are more high-growth firms operating here than in any other European nation with 144 unicorns, 237 ‘futurecorns’, and over 85,000 startups and scaleups. 

According to a recent report, the sector contributes around 8% of total UK GDP and employs over three million people. Naturally, much of this focus revolves around the capital, with London behind only New York as the best location to live and work in tech based on cost of living and salaries. 

However, other cities are also holding their own; the likes of Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Reading and Edinburgh, amongst others, all have their own significant tech hubs. Indeed, 40% of Deloitte’s Fast 50 are based outside of London. 


Despite this overwhelmingly positive outlook, there are problems appearing on the horizon, most notably in the skills arena. According to recent data, UK companies are increasingly hiring for entry-level tech roles, up from 6,596 in November last year to over 15,000 this year, as they seek to bring in a new generation of tech talent. And you won’t need us to tell you that the UK is already feeling the impact of major skills shortages across a range of industries, and the demand driven by Industry 4.0 is only going to increase the pressure. 

There are also a number of concerning emerging trends. Our latest insights report shows that not enough people are entering the industry to counterbalance the losses that are being noted in general. For example, the majority (67%) of tech leaders have reported that they are finding it hard to attract talent, and it’s fairly certain that the new working model of the industry is having an impact on the wider picture. 

While hybrid has overtaken remote working as the most popular approach, 73% of employers agree that remote working is limiting junior employees’ opportunities to develop new skills, which has implications for retention. A lack of facetime is also cause for concern; 69% report that identifying employee issues is harder, and 67% say that their corporate culture has suffered. 

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    But what can organisations, and the sector as a whole, do to ensure that the UK doesn’t miss out on the Fourth Industrial Revolution because of a lack of skills? 

    We all saw the plans in the Chancellor’s Budget earlier this year aiming to boost skills development in the technology sector, but if we are to maintain the position we have worked so hard to secure, everyone needs to play their part. That includes factors such as boosting training and development for those looking for a sideways step into tech, making a commitment to increasing diverse hiring or, as individuals, taking time out to mentor others.  

    A perfect example of initiatives for employers is the Amazon Web Services (AWS) re/Start programme, which aims to upskill underrepresented groups with the necessary skills for them to succeed in entry-level roles within tech. An inclusive part of its mission has been to address the gender imbalance and the initiative has previously supported female-only cohorts, and continues to empower these communities, to help them progress faster. 

    EdTech’s role

    Upskilling and reskilling have become a key part of the UK’s dominance, with nearly 3,000 EdTech startups having raised over £1.7 billion in funding over the past five years. 

    Organisations like Academy, Code First Girls, Immersive Labs and Multiverse are focused on enabling people of all ages to gain the skills they need to succeed in tech roles. Equally, doing more to retain the skills of people working within tech is also crucial; employers need to ensure that their top talent knows the value they add and long-term career growth plans need to be put in place to ensure that high levels of job satisfaction are maintained.

    More broadly, firms need to listen to their talent and adapt. As we’ve seen, the level of people entering the industry is worryingly close to the number of those leaving it, and if the UK wants to see continued growth, then this balance needs to be adjusted. 

    Without swift action, we face the real possibility of being knocked off the podium as a global tech leader.

    FUEL Manchester