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Dealing With The Digital Skills Gap

Dealing With The Digital Skills Gap

Research shows majority of employees don’t have necessary skills for their roles.

Organisations are facing a digital skills shortfall as employees are lacking in the skills needed for their jobs. Analysts at research firm Gartner have revealed a study that shows just a fifth of employees have the necessary skills for their current and future roles, with 70% of employees having not mastered the skills for their jobs today. Furthermore, 64% of managers don’t believe that their employees are able to keep up with future skill needs, while two-thirds of business leaders worry that if their organisation doesn’t become digitalised by 2020, it will no longer be competitive.

Gartner’s findings about how business is equipped for an increasingly digital world are mirrored by government figures last year that the number of people who lack at least “one basic digital skill” is at 11.5 million. Furthermore, the Telegraph has reported on data from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) that found that seven million people are under threat of being left behind unless they are handed the skills required to keep up with the pace of technology.

This problem goes further than just business too, with around 12% of the population being without the digital literacy skills necessary to carry out everyday tasks such as paying bills, contacting banks or booking flights.


Digital skills gap
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Whose Responsibility?

Should the digital skills gap come down to the employee, the business or the government to solve? Well, the government has recognised the issue with various investments announced over the past couple of years, including most recently a new £1 million Digital Skills Innovation Fund, open for bids from Local Enterprise Partnerships and Combined Authorities, with the focus on boosting digital skills for underrepresented groups. This modest figure is the latest in a line of funding provided by the government to address the digital divide, including a £100m investment in the training of computer science teachers and £20m of funding into the creation of the Institute of Coding, a consortium of businesses, industry experts and universities aimed at tackling the digital skills gap.

It cannot be just down to government investment to solve the problem, though. Business must also play its part in investing in its people, and important decisions need to be made by business leaders and HR teams if significant progress is to be made.

First, investing in training solutions/courses and bringing in digital experts to raise knowledge can genuinely make a difference in upskilling the current workforce. In this regard, it’s also worth considering designating and training some in-house personnel as digital experts, giving them the knowledge, ownership and motivation to then pass on their understanding of the digital world to others.

Businesses should also think about bringing in fresh employees with the skills to hand already to fill in any gaps within the business. Apprenticeships, for example, which is another area that the government has focused on to help plug the gap, can help greatly in this regard, although take-up is not currently as expected. The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy last year was supposed to increase uptake of apprenticeships across business, but figures from the Department for Education actually showed a decrease in apprenticeship numbers for the last academic year.

However businesses choose to improve their digital skillset, it’s important that the pressing issue of digital skills is not ignored, particularly with Brexit just around the corner.

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