The UK’s digital skills shortage

The pandemic has turned millions of office-based businesses into virtual companies overnight, inevitably resulting in a greater reliance on technology. This means it is arguably more important than ever to invest in employee development and tech skills. Even pre-pandemic, government figures showed eight out of ten advertised openings required some level of digital skills.

“The digital skills gap costs the UK economy £6.8 billion each year. Yet we’re spending more time than ever in digital environments. During the pandemic, social media usage, in particular, has skyrocketed with people across all generations using platforms for up to 54% longer than before. It begs the question: why are we so engaged when it comes to digital consumption, but digital production continues to suffer?” – The Drum

Over the years, technology has quickly and rapidly changed the way a lot of jobs are done. This can be seen in a variety of roles across numerous industries. In the industry I work in – digital marketing – for example; copywriters must know how to rank well in search engines using SEO strategy and by keeping up to date with the latest algorithm changes and updates. Gone are the days where you simply need to be able to write well and concisely, there is a lot more skill and technical ability required. 

In a new report, the BBC has warned that the UK is facing a “catastrophic digital skills shortage disaster.” Citing digital skills as vital for economic recovery after the pandemic, there has never been a better time to acquire digital skills. In the same report, the BBC discovered that “fewer than half of British employers believe young people are leaving full-time education [including in many cases University] with sufficient advanced digital skills.”

“Tech has been punching above its weight for years — outstripping much of the economy on growth and job creation before the pandemic. During the lockdown it kept the country going and now will have a leading role to play in fuelling our national recovery. Consequently, digital skills will become a core component of our way out of the mess — this economy will demand very different talents to the economy that closed back in March.” – CityAM

Having suffered at the hands of the coronavirus, the UK economy is relying on a swift and steady recovery. However, with the digital skills shortage, “76% of firms think that a lack of digital skills would hit their profitability”. Although it might be apparent that an efficient and extensive digital training programme being put in place would solve the issue, many companies are unable to provide it and don’t have the resources to fulfil what is required.

Although the skills gap focuses on young people (either not taking IT related subjects at GCSE level and beyond) the data can also shine a light on where the skills gap is affecting older generations that are finding it difficult to skill up or adapt to new technologies that are coming thick and fast. 

“The silver lining has been that out of necessity has come greater confidence – 31% of respondents in our latest survey declared they have become more confident using digital technology since the restrictions on daily life have been in place in the UK.” – Computer Weekly

So how do we solve it?

There are several ways we can bridge the digital skills gap by upskilling and training staff members as well as taking advantage of the free tools and resources available.  

“Organisations should be seeking opportunities to reskill and upskill people from all backgrounds and develop careers in the high-growth, high-demand tech sector. This is particularly relevant given the well-publicised shortage of tech and digital skills in the UK.” – Raconteur

“Given how quickly technological change occurs, digital skills gaps can emerge frequently. As your organisation pivots and new priorities and requirements are identified following disruption, you, therefore, need to evaluate and take steps to overcome your gaps on an ongoing basis. This is not an exercise you can conduct once every few years. You should have a regular, scalable plan to maintain your employees’ skills.” – Hays

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