The UK software landscape is heading towards a skills crisis.
The European Software Skills Alliance (ESSA) identified drastic knowledge and skills gaps across the software industry in its 2021 Needs Analysis Report. The report found that there is a lack of professional-related skills, such as programming and programming languages, and personal soft skills, such as critical thinking, across the European software sector.
Although it is advised that software professionals should look to retrain every five years, many established software engineers and software developers can lack the time to be reactive to industry advancements and to undergo regular training. As a result, the industry is experiencing knowledge gaps and skills shortages across its existing workforce, while the overall sector is also growing at an expedient rate.
The software industry is growing at a faster rate than its available talent pool, meaning once senior developers retire or move on to different roles – there will be a concerning lack of talent across the sector. Young, entry-level software talent is the key to futureproofing the software industry and confronting this software skills crisis.
We are on a mission to increase the opportunities available for aspiring software professionals, showcase the return on investment entry-level talent can bring to businesses, and help businesses recruit, train, and most importantly, retain their software talent for years to come.
Entry-Level Jobs Mirage
In 2022, there was an 18% increase in students enrolling on Computer Science degrees in England, which is a positive for the industry – but there is uncertainty about the student’s career prospects after qualifying.
A recent LinkedIn analysis of almost 4 million job vacancies showed that 35% of postings for “entry-level” roles required prior relevant work experience, and this was higher across different industries. More than 60% of entry-level software roles in this analysis required three or more years of relevant software experience.
LinkedIn has coined this the “entry-level jobs mirage.” Computer Science students are under the pretence that their university degree is enough to secure them an entry-level role after graduating, but research shows that this is not the case.
Our Mission to Increase Entry-Level Software Opportunities
We have analysed the software jobs market and software apprenticeship starts across the last five years, and our research supports the overall narrative that entry-level opportunities are disappearing across the sector. This is extremely alarming, as young entry-level software talent is key to future-proofing the industry – but the routes into the sector are decreasing, and employers are expecting more and more experience.
Our research found that although the sector is growing rapidly, Level 3 Software apprenticeship starts have drastically declined (and are expected to decline further) in the last five years. Level 3 apprenticeship starts have dropped by 54% (599 to 275, when comparing the first 3 quarters of each year) and Level 4 Software apprenticeship starts are becoming stagnant.
Each bar reflects the total number of software apprenticeship starts in England, per financial year & per programme. This data excludes Q4 of each year to reflect the current data available for 2022/23 to ensure a fair analysis.
The decline and stagnation of apprenticeship starts does not reflect the UK’s software industry which is growing consistently each year. Between 2015 and 2019, the UK software market’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) was 12.7% per annum, and in a 2021 press release, GOV concluded that software developers were the most in-demand tech job across the UK.
The decline and stagnation in apprenticeship starts is also not due to a lack of interest from aspiring software professionals. We have a large number of candidates in our talent pool, waiting to start their software careers, and we are sure many other apprenticeship training providers are the same.
Looking at our own data, and considering the entry-level jobs mirage, it is fair to conclude that aspiring software professionals in the UK lack a true opportunity to start their careers. We are failing our young people, and this will be detrimental to the growth and sustainability of the industry in the long term.
Why You Should Care about the Software Skills Shortage
Nurturing early software talent is the key to futureproofing the industry and will ensure the UK can keep pace with new developments and the overall economic growth of the sector.
In its 2021 Needs Analysis Report, the ESSA recognised that “the cooperation between (large) organisations and educational institutions needs to be strengthened to close the gap between demand and supply.”
The introduction of software skills into schools will take years to come into effect – if at all – but to be reactive and confront the rising software skills shortage, we must act fast. It is crucial for the longevity of the software industry for businesses to partner with apprenticeship providers to train the next generation of developers.
As the need for software skills and skilled developers increases, software salaries will continue to rise. According to Glassdoor, the average UK salary for software developers in 2023 is £58K with additional compensations. This is set to increase again in 2024 to reflect an increased demand for skills and the UK’s cost of living crisis.
To confront the UK’s software skills shortage, keep recruitment cost-effective, and futureproof your software team, you must think three steps ahead. It’s important for companies to be proactive rather than reactive when recruiting as unfortunately, it is not enough to just hire a developer when another developer leaves.
💡 Think about it like this, if you hired an entry-level software developer six months ago, you’d have a skilled software developer confident in their role and your company’s processes today.
Recruit, Train, Retain
We know that young, entry-level software talent is the key to preventing the emerging software skills shortage – and our Recruit, Train, Retain campaign aims to encourage more UK businesses to futureproof their company and the wider industry with entry-level talent.
From 1st November 2023, we are running our 3-month campaign and over the rest of the financial year we will push to partner with businesses across England to create 200 new software apprenticeship opportunities.
Recruit, Train, Retain is designed to disrupt the current state of the software industry, increase the overall opportunities available for aspiring software professionals, and encourage more companies across the sector to create true entry-level software starts through apprenticeships.
For any more information about Baltic Apprenticeships’ Recruit, Train, Retain campaign, or if your business would like to get involved in any way, please contact Lydia.Chilton@balticapprenticeships.com