Plugging the digital skills gap


It’s no secret that we are facing a skills shortage crisis in many of the UK’s core industries.

In the seventh annual CBI/ Pearson Education and Skills survey the CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall states that "firms are facing a skills emergency now" and this problem only becomes more pronounced when you factor in the additional digital skills required within these industries.

Emphasising the challenge facing the UK, the report highlights that “the economic recovery faces a mounting risk with 61% of those surveyed indicating at least some employee weakness in core IT skills”.

To understand the extent of the problem, we first need to fully understand what we actually mean when we reference ‘Digital Skills’?

These include the ability to

  • effectively use digital programs and tools on computers and mobile devices
  • appropriately select and extensively use software applications 
  • interact in online groups and forums and engage through social media following best practise and industry standards
  • secure and protect hardware, applications, data and personal information
  • identify, record and report analytical data
  • be a logical thinker; able to identify, construct and evaluate arguments.

Just to clarify, it’s not expected that individuals will possess all of these skills, but they do require a combination of 2 or 3. So it’s not hard to see, why the average ‘Joe Public’ falls short of these requirements. 
It’s estimated the UK needs to ‘create’ 750,000 digitally-skilled individuals by 2017. Without the necessary skills, training or adoption to drive businesses forward, the impacted loss to the UK is projected at £2bn year.
Safe to say it’s a big issue, so what’s being done to address this and fundamentally whose problem is it?

The education sector must take some responsibility or there is a distinct possibility the UK will fail to provide future generations with the skills they need to support and succeed in the modern workplace. Schools need to give students all the digital tools that employers seek, assuming they have the relevant skills because let’s face it; posting a status update or Tweeting an image doesn’t make them social experts!

Equally, employers must take their fair share of responsibility. It’s safe to say the influx of digital tech within the workplace, particularly those that help communications is causing businesses to be at a distinct disadvantage. Simply put, employees do not know how to use the technology proficiently within the workplace; a problem that will remain for as long as the fast pace at which change is adopted, continues.

Certainly business owners need to invest as much money in training as they do in purchasing the tech. There is often ‘fear’ of new platforms and systems amongst the workforce so getting the basics right, creating crib sheets, top tips and regular training to fully embed the technology will aid adoption and integration.

All that aside, you will, at some point, experience skills gaps, albeit through churn or expansion and your approach to hiring new talent is critical in attracting the ‘right’ candidate. Consider Capgemini’s White Paper – ‘The Digital Talent Gap’ which found that 63% of companies are using traditional methods to source digital talent. 

Think about it. If you are truly savvy within the digital space, gaining confidence that your next employer walks and talks your language is essential, so it should come as no surprise that over 49% of these candidates are more likely to consider a job that’s advertised in an innovative way. 

So, if you’re thinking about hiring a tech-savvy guru, don’t presume they’ll respond to your job board advert, it’s going to take a little more effort than that!

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