Whitehall chief: ‘It’s difficult to overestimate the number of digital and data people we need to recruit’

Written by Tevye Markson on 22 May 2023 in News

Alex Chisholm reveals more than 2,000 DDaT professionals joined the civil service during a six-month period last year

Credit: Vishnu Vijayan/Pixabay

Civil service chief operating officer Alex Chisholm has claimed that government has an ongoing and urgent need to hire digital, data and technology professionals.

Chisholm, who is also permanent secretary of the Cabinet Office, said that 2,200 DDaT professionals joined the civil service in a six-month period from April to October 2022. 

“But of course, if you look at what people are actually having to work on now, and you've got a civil service of nearly 500,000 people, that’s actually not that many”, he added, speaking exclusively to PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World.

Ove the coming months, “it would be difficult to overestimate the number of people we need to continue to recruit for digital and data,” Chisholm said 

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“And it is a very intense market and there's people you are losing at the other end as well. So we are very much in a constant replenishment mode,” he added. 

Beyond the DDaT profession, the Whitehall operations chief also cited the importance of increasing technical skills among the wider civil service.

“I don't want us in the future to think ‘alright, this is a digital issue, I need to go and talk to our digital people’,” Chisholm said. “Or to say ‘oh, that's a data problem, I need to talk to data people’. We don't say that when there’s a language issue: ‘It's a word problem, I need to go and talk to people who can do words’.”
He added: “We don't have to be experts. We’re not saying we're all going to be coding away. I’ve got a Python expert in my private office but I don't use Python myself. But at least I know what it is and the value of it.”

Chisholm said that he himself has also changed the way he works, moving from a “red box” to a “digi-box” for reviewing advice.

“It’s a webpage and that's much better. We don't have to scribble notes so no-one has to read my terrible handwriting,” he said. “And it's all recorded for the future.”


About the author

Tevye Markson is a reporter at PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @TevyeMarkson.

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