Spotlight on the Digital skills gap

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the use of technology across all sectors, fuelling the demand for industries to automate and innovate to survive the global upheaval caused by the pandemic and government lockdown measures, creating new service models from virtual GP’s to home working through to the exponential increase in online shopping, mobile banking amongst others.  

This growth fuelled demand for new digital skills, these skills were needed to drive growth, productivity, and innovation across the economy.  However, there remains a significant digital skills gap that will make it difficult to meet this demand.

12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic skills.

Statistics show that over nine in ten (92%) businesses say that having a basic level of digital skills is important for employees at their organisation, and four in five (82%) job vacancies ask for digital skills.

The Basic digital survey 2017 estimates, that 300,000, 15–24-year-olds in the UK, lack basic digital skills. Basic digital skills consist of five categories which include communicating, handling information and content, transacting, problem solving and being safe and legal online.

Furthermore, with the accelerated adoption of digital technology, new technologies are constantly emerging and making a bigger impact across all spheres of society from education to finance through to healthcare, amongst some of the areas.

With the new emerging technologies, more jobs are being created, technology such as AI, cloud, 5G and analytics are being implemented within many businesses driving the demand for these types of skills and creating new jobs such as data scientists, software developers, market research analysts, software engineers amongst others.

Latest reports show that it is estimated 133 million new roles may emerge globally, by 2022 as a result of the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms. This growth can only be sustained when underpinned by vital digital skills.

Building the digital skills capability

More recent data from the BCS shows that the number of students taking computer science degrees increased by 7.6% in 2020.

However, diversity continues to be a problem in technology.

Over a quarter of female students say that they have been put off a career in technology as it is too male dominated. The BCS Diversity Report 2020 found that age and gender (22%) are known as the top two diversity barriers to getting a first job in IT. When it comes to progressing a career in IT, gender is perceived as the biggest diversity barrier (29%) followed by age (19%) and ethnicity (11%).

Digital exclusion prevents access to jobs and services.

Two million households in the UK do not have access to the internet, resulting in their exclusion from online goods and services.  Additionally, given the growth in digitalisation and potential opportunities, this digitally excluded group run the risk of being excluded from the opportunity to develop the skills needed to participate in the job market for these roles. Thus, widening the gap between the digital haves and have nots.

Clearly the opportunities available through digitalisation are significant, however the growth of economies and specifically businesses will be impeded if the demand for digital skills is not addressed across all sectors.

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