A senior Civil Service official has highlighted the importance of apprenticeships and growing internal talent for digital, data and technology (DDaT) roles in government.
Thomas Beautyman, deputy director government digital capability in the Cabinet Office, raised the issue at the techUK Building the Smarter State conference yesterday.
He referred to the roadmap for digital and data published in June, saying that a central element is equipping civil servants for a digital future.
Beautyman referred to the skills gap for DDaT inside the Civil Service, pointing out that there are currently around 20,000 DDaT relevant roles and over 3,800 vacancies – a worrying proportion – and that such roles account for around 4% of the total in government compared with 8-10% in the corporate private sector.
In addition, there are areas such as DevOps and testers in which about half of government’s capacity is provided by third party contractors.
This has led to a need to build and nurture talent internally.
“There is a shift about recognising the gap that is so significant now that we have to focus on developing our people as much as delivery, and that means developing our people through apprenticeship programmes,” he said.
“There is a pile of apprenticeship levy cash on the table across government but we don’t utilise it effectively. It’s a really important way for us to be able to grow talent.
“We will upskill existing civil servants with much cleaner, clearer learning pathways. And we will also look to identify people who show potential for a career in digital, data and technology and give pathways for them to come into the profession.”
Another element is for other staff, up to senior levels, to build their digital skills and understanding of the role of DDaT in future plans.
“What we’ve done for the very first time is set expectations about what we want from our senior civil servants across all professions and functions,” Beautyman said. “In future, whether you’re in commercial, operational delivery or HR, in order to do policy, we need them to have a level of skill and confidence in these areas.”
This prompted the publication earlier this year of a set of DDaT essentials for senior civil servants including an emphasis on the users of services and the need for innovation, and the roll out of a number of programmes to help them acquire the understanding.
“It’s really important that every senior civil servant knows how to use data, how to visualise data, how to present arguments in an evidence based way that leverage the right data,” he said, adding that there will be more campaigning to get this across over the next two quarters.
The third key area is inclusion and diversity. He said that every time the Civil Service invests in growing its capability it tests whether it will accelerate the move to inclusivity in its work and workforce.
“That means hearing those seldom heard voices, genuinely doing inclusive service design,” he said.