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Digital Transformation 2022

Bridging the telecoms skills gap

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Robert Franks

MD of WM5G and Director of Regions, Entrepreneurship and Skills, UKTIN

Transitioning from a few vendors to an open networking ecosystem, the global telecoms sector is facing a period of significant change, which poses notable opportunities for the UK’s security and economic interests.

Amid an ageing workforce — 60% of the engineers in the UK are over the age of 50 — and gaps in telecoms training, increasing demand for fibre and 5G has exposed significant skills gaps across the country.

Growing network

According to a recent report by Eightfold AI, 33% of those in the leading network engineering and operation positions are not currently equipped to adapt to emerging telecoms trends, particularly 5G and Open RAN. The UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN) intends to address this, acting as an impartial coordinator and facilitator of telecoms’ capabilities and interests. Funded by the UK Government, the network — which launched in October this year — is committed to building a growing, resilient sector that identifies future skills and attracts talented people into the industry to deliver a long-lasting societal impact across the UK.

To bridge the telecoms skills gap, the industry must act as a collective.

Telecoms training

Our ambition is to act as a convener of industry, academic research and development communities — supporting the definition of a UK telecoms strategy, clearer access to funding and the evolution of new mobile and broadband technology. Centring on social value, UKTIN — delivered by a consortium of four partners: Digital Catapult, CW (Cambridge Wireless), University of Bristol and WM5G — will facilitate entrepreneurship, employment, vocational training and educational attainment challenges through a National Telecoms Entrepreneurship, Employment and Training Programme on track to launch in the second half of 2023.

Maximising talent

Regional strengths will be leveraged, with diversification and decentralisation at the heart of our plans. Understanding and communicating the capabilities and assets that already exist will be crucial, in addition to recruitment and retention strategies. To bridge the telecoms skills gap, the industry must act as a collective.

Ultimately, the demand for digital skills will only be resolved through a large-scale commitment to training, movement of workers and competition. We believe the first step is to help telecom businesses across the country understand the challenges they are facing — only then can we orchestrate an effective industry response. Like any gap in the market, a shortage of skills presents an opportunity for innovation and new talent to enter the market ahead of the curve. We look forward to being a part of this much-needed transformation.

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