Digital is second nature to this generation, yet despite this there is a vast gap that is impacting businesses across the country. In fact, £63bn a year is being lost because of a lack of digital skills. But just how can this gap be filled?
Earlier this year the Science and Technology Committee put together a report that requested the government look at the digital skills gap, and take it serious. They noted that “12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills; 5.8 million people have never used the internet” – which is an astonishing fact when you think about the amount of digital devices most people own, alongside the growth of internet usage. Just how are so many people behind with their digital skills and usage of modern day technology?
Naturally you would imagine that a vast number of these adults without digital skills are older; having missed out on the benefit of IT lessons in schools and being brought up with an iPad in hand. This doesn’t make these skills any less vital however, and for those adults who have years’ worth of knowledge in particular job roles they simply cannot be replace. So, instead, businesses need to put a focus on increasing their skills and knowledge to ensure they can keep up to date with modern requirements and not fall behind.
It is estimated that by 2017 the UK required 745,000 workers with digital skills in order to attempt at closing the gap. This should assist the economy in reigning in the lost income through this skill gap.
However, it has also become clear that whilst the current generation are digital natives and have grown up with mobile phones, social media and virtual reality – there are consumers rather than creators. Whilst they understand how the basics of these technologies work and how to use them in daily life, they have no interest in building upon skills that could be used in the workplace or for business. After all, tweeting your friends isn’t the same as promoting a B2B business on Twitter.
With SMEs and charities in particular really feeling the loss of digital skills it is necessary for businesses and the government to look at alternative programs to drive an increase in understanding of digital. One such example is apprenticeships. Whilst there are a great number of these in physical jobs such as plumbing and carpentry, there are much fewer in digital roles – which ultimately are the opposite ideal of a traditional apprenticeship course.
Businesses can also look to build and deploy internal digital skills programs, encouraging existing employees to develop upon skills they already have to meet the needs that the business requires.
Digital skills are only going to become more important in future years as technology develops and grows, they are also essential to ensure the future growth and competitiveness of the UK economy. Avoiding the crisis is not an option.