Digital Skills Gap: Growth in digital
On account of the fact most people own a smartphone, spend hours on social media sites, and are exposed to various forms of technology throughout the day, you would think the UK’s workforce possess ample digital skills. However, last year it was revealed that over 12 million people and a million small businesses do not have the skills to prosper in the digital era.
To add insult to injury, tech businesses have experienced phenomenal growth over the past couple of years according to a report by the Business Growth Fund and Barclays. The number of active companies increased by 7 per cent in 2014, while London is home to Europe’s fastest growing tech cluster with 27 per cent of all job growth generated by the tech and digital sector.
Therefore, tech-orientated businesses will no doubt recruit more and more people in years to come, but be faced with an ever-shrinking talent pool to choose from. As you can imagine, this is not only bad news for the UK’s blossoming tech and digital industries, but also the country’s recovering economy as a whole.
Educating tomorrow’s workforce with the right digital skills
With certain industries, such as the legal and financial sectors, members of staff will have to undergo various examinations or training courses to keep up to date with the latest regulations and changing trends. Generally speaking however, those who pursue these kinds of careers will choose to do so after leaving school.
But when it comes to digital skills, children are encountering technology in the form of computers and even smartphones on a daily basis. For this reason, it makes sense to provide young people with training, knowledge, resources, and equipment as early on in their education as possible.
To this end, the government introduced a reworked computer A-level to promote the idea of tech careers among young people and make up for the digital skills shortfall. Then again, there were just 56,025 UK computer science graduates in 2011, a drop of 23.3 per over the past 10 years. So, what else can be done?
Addressing the UK’s digital skills gap
At a school level, teachers must posses the necessary skills to teach an increasingly digital curriculum. There is also scope for existing tech experts to retrain as teachers, providing they have an interest in encouraging and upskilling tomorrow’s digital workers to grow and succeed.
Furthermore, after-school clubs and professional training companies such as General Assembly, Decoded, Code Club, and the Livingstone School are also doing great work to plug the skills gap.
Finally, there is Digital Futures, an educational movement that wants to harness the skills of tech sector experts to train and employ the next generation of young innovators.
The consequences of a digital skills gap
Matt Cynnamon, outgoing director of General Assembly UK, says: "A study carried out on behalf of O2 towards the end of 2013 found that Britain will need 750,000 skilled digital workers by 2017 – and if we can't support that growth, it could result in costing the UK as much as £2bn each year."
As you can well imagine, this would seriously hurt the UK’s position as a world leader in digital marketing and social media. This means the government must give precedence to teacher training, academies and bursaries to support the country’s future tech potential.
But in the short term, industry experts and employers have a duty to encourage young people and support movements like Digital Futures to successfully address the immediate skills gap.