The UK’s newly released Digital Strategy builds on the wider Industrial Strategy Green Paper published in January. While it outlines a promising series of initiatives to support digital industries, it fails to offer much positive news for those faced with a post-Brexit hiring crisis.
The Digital Strategy covers a lot of ground, with initiatives ranging from mobile and broadband infrastructure, to streamlining and enhancing digital government, funding R&D, improving regulation and promoting scale-up.
A particular focus of the Digital Strategy is improving digital skills, from those who are currently digitally excluded (around 1 in 10 of the adult population have never used the internet) to those studying for more advanced skills at school and university. While the Digital Strategy recognises that Brexit will present a challenge, as the pool of available talent contracts, attention is focused on home-grown skills. The National College for Digital Skills (Ada), for example, opened in 2016 to provide an industry focused alternative at sixth form and apprenticeship level. A new independent institute to improve degree level provision is also planned. And a new Digital Skills Partnership will aim to coordinate and target the range of training opportunities available across the country.
Chapter 3 of the Digital Strategy acknowledges the ongoing need for access to international talent, but offers little immediate comfort other than saying that the Migration Advisory Committee will be asked to consider whether the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route is appropriate, and make recommendations. While much of the impetus for Brexit revolved around immigration concerns, many in the digital field will want to see a strategy for skilled worker immigration routes sooner rather than later.