Infrastructure > Cloud

Whitehall braces for disruptive technologies skills shortage

Neil Merrett Published 12 January 2017

Key Whitehall and military figures play up need for re-skilling and fresh perspective of 'digital natives' to meet service transformation needs during AWS training programme launch


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and wider UK government have backed a need for fresh approaches to tackle a lack of digital and cyber security skills for a changing technology landscape being driven by innovations such as cloud technology.

Speaking at the launch today of a new Amazon Web Service (AWS) training and job placement programme supported by the MoD and The Prince’s Trust, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley highlighted the need for ensuring sufficiently skilled or re-trained staff in both the private and public sectors.

“Given the level of change and the pace of change, we do not today have enough people with the digital skills that we need for the future,” she said.

Having last month launched its first UK data centres in line with similar commitments by Microsoft and IBM, AWS unveiled its ‘re:Start’ initiative to offer free training and placements in software development and cloud computing to 1,000 individuals.  This will be focused around young people and military veterans in particular.

Speaking at the programme’s launch, outgoing Ministry of Defence (MoD) chief digital and information officer (CDIO) Mike Stone highlighted a growing need for a “different set of skills” and more digitally native individuals to help its aims to embrace both the cloud and more mobile systems.

Stone argued that the ability of cloud services to disrupt traditional service models for industry and public sector organisations like the MoD will put significant pressure for new skillsets in the UK workforce going forward.

“One of the biggest challenges overall for industry is the fact that cloud enables people to disrupt business models that will all get disrupted. Yhat includes the military and we have to think in entirely new ways,” he said.

Stone said that to achieve such an approach, fresh thinking  on hardware, software and IT was needed by organisations to better reshape the delivery of key functions, while also moving away from the concept of using end-to-end, vertically integrated systems in future.

“We’re going to be exploiting platforms. If we look at what platform economics brings us, and AWS is probably the biggest platform, the platforms recognise that we have got the ability to take the digital exhaust of everything else that is going on and get value out of it in a way we would never have thought about in the past,” he said.

Stone claimed that from the MoD perspective, cloud technology was fundamental to modern approaches to digital transformation as part of a focus including analytics and cyber security, but was not without implementation hurdles.

“It also does though offer challenges in relation to cyber security and potential threat and we need to be training people right across the board [to address] those challenges,” he said.  “Let’s be clear, we cannot to any of this without cloud at the base of it.”

Also speaking at the event launch was Juan Villamil, director of infrastructure and operations services at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who was questioned over potential impacts of the UK’s referendum decision to leave the European Union.

In the realms of training and recruitment to ensure sufficient skills to oversee key departmental projects, Villamil noted the likelihood of increased pressure and challenges, creating more work for the department as a result of Brexit.

Related articles:

AWS creates new UK data centre region

Where is the innovation? Suppliers raise G-Cloud development concerns

Stone to leave Ministry of Defence next Spring

Government must do more on digital skills, urges report

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