© iStock/PeopleImages
© iStock/PeopleImages

New research from Barclaycard has revealed that more than three-quarters of UK CIOs are worried about upskilling tech talent (78%) and concerned about recruiting the IT staff they need (76%) in today's competitive and uncertain market.

The YouGov-conducted survey of 100 CIOs in the UK working in companies with more than 250 employees found that 69% of CIOs believe the need to upskill employees in the technology department is of critical or high importance.

However, many of them admitted they were struggling to ensure that their teams continue to have the knowledge, skills and experience they need to keep up with digital developments, with fears about the impact of Brexit looming large in their minds.

Barclaycard CIO Keith Little said that the research showed CIOs recognised that simply hiring skilled individuals isn't enough.

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"To keep pace with the rapid technological change, tech leaders must be prepared to continually identify and address the skills gaps within their organisations," he said.

"This could involve setting up new ways of working to better share knowledge across their business, reviewing training programmes or bringing in fresh expertise as the company's technology goals evolve. The good news is that most CIOs say their team is more diverse than five years ago – suggesting they're already taking steps to ensure they nurture a wider range of skills."

Brexit impact

More than half worry they won't be able to recruit enough employees with the right technical skills after Brexit

Research by CIO UK shows that UK organisations have been turning away from using EU workers to plug the skills gap.

The 2018 edition of the CIO 100 showed that despite growing concerns about access to talent, the number of CIOs recruiting IT professionals from EU member states had declined by more than a fifth since 2015.

Although 72% of organisations in the CIO 100 included IT workers from other EU nations, only 37% were actively looking to the bloc to bridge the skills gap.

Read next: UK organisations less likely to turn to EU tech workers to plug IT skills gap, CIO 100 suggests

The findings reflect growing worries about the implications of Brexit on recruiting tech talent. Members of the 2017 CIO 100 noted that negotiations around freedom of movement and the rights of EU citizens living in the UK could have a significant impact on their organisations.

Jacqueline de Rojas, president of IT trade body TechUK, believes that the booming sector will struggle to find the skills it needs if borders close and the domestic pipeline doesn't expand. In 2018, she told CIO UK that the government must help improve access to talent.

"The government must ensure the UK's tech sector has access to the brightest and best global talent in order to continue to grow and innovate," she said. "This is even more important in the context of Brexit which threatens to interrupt the ease of the current system if we fail to plan."

One way in which companies can widen their IT talent pool is by developing a more diverse workforce. The Barclaycard survey suggested that this was now improving in the tech sector, with 64% of CIOs saying their team members are from a wider range of backgrounds than they were five years ago, and seven in 10 (70%) reporting that they now have more women in their teams.