In our last post we discussed how to develop your digital skills and the importance of them in today’s modern society. In this article, we’d like to delve into the digital skills gap deeper so you can understand why it’s essential to possess a level of IT literacy and what skills are most in-demand right now. By knowing what digital skills are required from most businesses and the Government, you’ll be better equipped to choose one of our BCS courses we offer in IT and digital skills to boost your career in the right direction.
The digital skills gap in the UK
According to a research document produced by the UK Parliament, a fifth of the UK population do not possess the essential digital skills for life ‘defined’ by the UK Government. Their document discusses some key issues in today’s society of how the digital skills gap is impacting everyday life such as health, employment and businesses. To address these issues which have been brought to light over the last two years, are some initiatives that have been put in place to tackle the gap and help the population improve their digital knowledge.
How the digital skills gap is affecting UK Businesses
The document references many different researches and studies, one of which highlighted that 77% of 9.4 million UK job advertisements required basic digital skills.
Another survey from 2020 in the document that was carried out on UK businesses, shown that 69% of them believed their company had a digital skills gap and 44% were worried it would impact their success over the course of 12 months.
Other data produced by the UK Government shows that ‘almost half of businesses (48%) are recruiting for roles that require hard data skills, under half (46%) have struggled to recruit for these roles over the last 2 years.
Estimated in 2018, analysis said that if the UK did not close the digital skills gap it could face losing up to £140 billion in GDP growth by 2028 and according to a report by the World Economic Forum the UK was ranked 32nd out of 140 countries for its population’s level of digital skills.
Businesses and the UK’s growth are not the only ones impacted by the skills gap, as those who are digitally excluded could experience poorer health and social isolation.
What groups of people are most impacted by the digital skills gap?
The document says different groups of people who are unlikely to have a level of digital skills due to a number of contributing factors which are:
Age – People over 65 have limited or no digital skills
Socioeconomic status – 95% of those with a household income over £50,000 a year had essential digital skills compared to 64% of people with a household income of under £17,499 a year.
Location – London’s population scored highest for essential digital skills for life at 82% while the East Midlands only has 73%.
Education – 93% of people with a university degree or formal qualification have essential skills for life while only 34% of people without any formal qualification have.
Disabilities – Data suggests that those with a disability are less likely to have basic digital skills than people who don’t have one.
Other reasons for the digital skills gap
While there are inequality factors highlighted above as to why there is such a huge digital skills gap in the UK, there are other factors contributing to it also, such as:
- Lack of motivation or need to obtain digital skills
- Lack of trust in technology (fraud)
- Lack of learning support
- Lack of access to devices and internet
What are the categories an individual needs to have to be classed as having essential digital skills for life or digital skills for work?
- Communicating – Ability to use applications such as Word Processing Software (Word) and Emails to communicate and share information
- Handling Information and Content – Examples would be using search engines to find information and your ability to store data and information securely as well as assessing reliable content online
- Transacting – Being able to purchase things online such as tickets and making bill payments
- Problem Solving – Using online tools to solve problems and to learn new information such as a video tutorial
- Being safe and legal online – -Ability to control privacy settings and identify spam or suspicious links in emails
What are the benefits of digital skills?
- Helps those who are currently employed by improving their capabilities and efficiency
- Reduces the risk of job loss due to automation
- Helps people to find more job opportunities
- Improves peoples employment prospects
- Allows people to search for more vacancies as they possess the ability to search online
- Gives people more flexible working arrangements such as distance learning, online studying and remote working
- Higher incomes
- Money savings through using online tools to compare prices and find discounts
- Those with digital skills are less likely to be scammed (older people without digital skills are targeted more)
- More access to funding such as claiming Universal credits online
- Claim tax reductions online
- More health and wellbeing services have moved online since COVID-19, those who have digital skills can access these and make online appointments
- Access to social networks including friends and family and support groups
Closing the digital skills gap
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, the UK government set out strategies and initiatives to reduce the digital skills gap in the UK, these include:
- Education for young people in schools
- Upskilling and reskilling adults
- Initiatives aimed to improve people’s access to devices and the internet
The document mentions research carried out by CBI which shows that 93% of businesses are taking action to reduce the digital skills gap within their workplaces. They are looking to do this by hiring more people, partnering with small businesses, providing training for their employees and offering more apprenticeships.
Another great article by the FDM Group lists a number of ways in which companies can look to upskill their employees’ digital skills. They suggest a company should look to identify what their digital skills gap is first so they can then begin to solve the problem, but the solution could be tricky to tackle depending on the size of the gap, the budget the company has and the nature of the skills needed. The first two points are FMD Groups suggestions followed by our own and how we can help businesses to reduce their digital skills gap:
- Introduce an upskilling (training) programme
Build an in-house IT training programme that focuses on the digital skills that are currently missing from your company. They suggest to set objectives and time-frames so you can manage the progress and success of the training. It can be a more cost-effective solution than recruiting and it will also help to boost employee moral and credibility.
- Change your recruitment process
Expand to new candidates by amending your current job descriptions and reaching out to new recruits, job boards and look at different ways to reach out and advertise your positions. By opening up to more candidates you can attract new talent and you’ll have a wider selection of people to choose from.
- Book your employees on a staff IT training course
An accredited training centre like us can provide your employees with the essential digital skills training they need to help take your organisation to the next level of success. At Cheshire Digital Skills Academy we offer a range of IT courses and BCS courses that meet the learning needs of your staff to fill the skills gap of your business. Our tailored approach enables us to customise a solution for each company that addresses their own challenges within the workplace.
We offer fully accredited IT BCS courses where your employees receive a qualification and certificate on completion. You can visit our courses for businesses page to find out more information or get in contact with us today to discuss your requirements and objectives.