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Digital skills take precedence over Oxbridge

Digital skills take precedence over Oxbridge

Digital skills take precedence over Oxbridge
June 13
02:32 2016


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London has thrived as a global city, welcoming workers and migrants from across the world

Management consultancies are increasingly bypassing the universities of Cambridge and Oxford as they aim to compete for recruits with technology companies such as Google and Amazon.

Nearly a third of all consultancy work now involves strategic advice on digital technologies, according to the annual report by the Management Consultancies Association.

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The number of recruits to the £5.5bn a year management consultancy industry, which has traditionally specialised in project management and financial services, grew by 9.5 per cent in 2015, taking the total number employed to 45,000. Twelve thousand of these are digital technology specialists.

Although about two-thirds of new recruits still come from the Russell group of elite UK universities, the number from Oxford and Cambridge has almost halved since 2011, as the management consultancy industry has followed the City and financial institutions in diversifying its recruitment.

Bristol’s University of the West of England, which has strong courses in forensics and cyber security, topped the list for recruitment from non-Russell group universities, followed by Loughborough University and the University of Portsmouth.

Alan Leaman, chief executive of the MCA, which represents about 60 per cent of the sector, including heavyweights such as KPMG, Accenture, IBM and Arup, said that “beneath the surface, the industry was facing seismic change”.

He said the consultancy workforce was diversifying rapidly as public and private sector organisations sought help to cope with new technology and demanded expertise in data analytics, social media and artificial intelligence.

“Firms increasingly find they are competing with Google, Amazon and digital start-ups for talent,” Mr Leaman said.

The public sector’s use of management consultants grew by 4.9 per cent in 2015, but the £1bn in fee income is still nearly half the level before the financial crisis in 2009.

Although it has been growing steadily since 2012, central government spending on consultants dipped again in 2015, showing Whitehall’s attempt to get a grip on spending was having an effect.

Firms increasingly find they are competing with Google, Amazon and digital start-ups for talent.

– Alan Leaman, chief executive of the Management Consultancies Association

But this was compensated for by a revival in spending by local authorities who are digitising services and making other changes in response to government spending cuts, the MCA said.

In the public sector, there has been a shift away from major projects — such as the cancelled plan for UK identity cards — towards small-scale digitisation and an increased focus on “payment by results” schemes, such as those used in the newly privatised probation service, where some fees are dependent on keeping ex-offenders out of prison.

“Price competition has continued to be fierce,” says Mr Leaman. “But the conversation is beginning to move from the need to reduce spending to the need to get better value. There is less obsession about day rates.”

Overall, members of the MCA saw their fee income rise by 8 per cent to £5.5bn in 2015, slightly slower than the 8.4 per cent achieved in 2014. The financial services industry continued to be the biggest hirer, accounting for about a third of all fees, with pensions advisory services a small but fast-growing sector as the result of government changes.

The falling oil price hit demand for energy consultants, though this was partly offset by increased demand from the power generation and renewables sector. There was also growth in the private health and life sciences sector, which have not previously been large users of consultancy services.

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