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Technology Sector: Skills Shortages

Volume 734: debated on Wednesday 14 June 2023

1. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help tackle skills shortages in the technology sector. (905382)

We know that digital skills are a vital building block for developing the workforce of the future, so we are working across Government with educators and employers to grow the pipeline of individuals entering the digital sector. Steps that we have taken include the launch of the Government and industry Digital Skills Council, the introduction of artificial intelligence and data science conversion courses with the Department for Education and the creation of new visa routes with the Home Office to attract international tech talent. We worked with the Department for Education on the launch of skills bootcamps in England and the Government will be investing up to £150 million in the programme, with free, flexible courses lasting up to 16 weeks in subjects such as software engineering, with a guaranteed job interview at the end.

In contrast to what the Minister says, more than £600 million of apprenticeship levy funding has been returned to the Treasury in the last year alone, enough to have funded more than 60,000 new apprenticeships. Labour will reform the system to create a growth and skills levy that can be used on a much wider range of training that businesses say they need. Will the Government address the chronic shortage of skills, match Labour’s ambition and give tech businesses what they need to thrive?

I gave a long answer the first time, so I can give a shorter one this time. We are already acting in that space. On the apprenticeship levy, we always work with employers and supply chains throughout this country to ensure it works as effectively as possible for what businesses need.

The submarine programme in Barrow will deliver thousands of jobs and generations of work, but we are struggling to grow our own. We have Furness STEM and UlverSTEM, which do good work, but this is an international endeavour with AUKUS and a national endeavour with Dreadnought. What discussions has the Minister had across Government about how we lean in to that skills challenge?

My hon. Friend is right to champion Barrow’s industry. We talk regularly with the Department for Education, colleagues from the Department for Work and Pensions, tech sectors and academia to ensure we get it right. We must remember that domestic and international talent are so important in this space.