Digital skills: The currency of digital transformation

The BBC has released an eye-opening new study warning that the UK is facing a “catastrophic digital skills crisis disaster.” There has never been a greater time to learn digital skills, as they’re being cited as critical for economic growth after the pandemic.

According to studies conducted by the Learning and Work Institute, “fewer than half of British employers think young people leave full-time school [including, in many cases, university] with adequate advanced digital skills.”

Surprisingly, these results coincide with the expansion and prosperity of UK companies after the pandemic. According to the same report, “76% of companies believe that a shortage of digital capabilities would damage their profitability.” Although interactive training seems to be the logical solution to this rising problem, many businesses are unable to deliver it.

Though focusing on the skills gap among young people, this data reflects an increasing skills deficit across the UK that impacts adults at all stages of their careers almost as much as those at the bottom of the job ladder. This shortage is especially noticeable in the tech sphere, which has risen rapidly in recent years and is suffering from a shortage of qualified tech professionals.

According to a report by Microsoft, the UK skills deficit costs employers £6.3 billion, and CBI reports found that companies, governments, and people could boost spending on adult education by £130 billion by 2030 if they want to close the skills gap. 

As a result of #Covid19, traditional industries are digitalising, new sectors emerging, and our ways of working rapidly changing — that figure is only going to dramatically rise without decisive action.  

There are three core parts of our digital skills strategy that must be prioritised in the wake of this crisis. First, education will need realigning with industry. For stable growth, people must be armed with the skills that employers need. For those leaving further or higher education courses, there is often little to no access to digital skills training. Put bluntly, those graduating from our world-leading universities often do not have basic digital capabilities. Compulsory digital training during the later stages of education would help give Britain’s graduates a fighting chance in a world of work more centred on technology.

“Digital skills are the currency of digital transformation.” – Simon Lambert, Chief Learning Officer, Microsoft UK

The BBC cites a lack of awareness and advice regarding future internet, engineering, and technology career options as one of the reasons for this skills gap, along with a lack of well identified work positions and relatable role models in the industry. There are many organisations that know how to conduct digital skills training — to enhance efforts it is necessary to build on expertise and knowledge. 

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