The UK En Route to Experiencing ‘Digital Skills Shortage Blow’

Since the Post-COVID era began, there has been a rapid increase in the demand for digital skills. This can be seen in all aspects of jobs nowadays due to the change brought about by technology. However, the number of youths taking IT-related courses at GCSE in the UK has been reported to drop by a whopping 40% since 2015; Learning & Work Institute.

It is no news that digital skills have become a crucial feature in ensuring economic growth since the pandemic, still, the supply of digitally skilled individuals is far lesser than the demand for them. According to reports from the European Union, the UK is regarded as the 5th most digitally advanced nation in Europe and was said to have focused on improving digital businesses in 2018. Nevertheless, the UK still faces a significant digital skill shortage.

Many business owners are unable to understand the ropes of new technology that requires expertise in the digital world, which is why training of youths and teaching of these skills in schools will bring about a positive impact on the economy says Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann; CEO of WorldSkills UK.

Why is Digital Skills Shortage Progressing in the UK?

In a report to BBC from Dr Neil Bentley-Gochmann, some reasons why digital skill shortage in the UK seems to be heading towards rock bottom were highlighted:

  • the inability to understand and guide youths towards potential career paths
  • not enough clearly defined roles and jobs in certain fields
  • inability to simplify technical professions to youths, especially women
  • lack of role models

It can be agreed upon that these seem to be a great challenge especially when youths have little or no idea of what they are to face in the labour market, or how to take the reins of their jobs. It is imperial to note that instilling knowledge on digital skills in youths needs to be first understood by the teachers who teach these young people, and employers giving room for learning these skills, else the lack of commitment and understanding will tarry.

Where Should Digital Skills be Taught?

There is said to be over 3billion smartphone users worldwide according to Statistica, 2021 with an increase in time spent on mobile phones. Many young people enjoy passing time with their soft skills such as coding, video games designs without realizing they can be a form of wealth creation and improve economic growth in the long run.

Where one learns the ropes of digital skill does not really matter. What matters is learning the basics and improving on them. However, schools should involve such basic skills such as the Microsoft packages into their curriculum to enable students to familiarize themselves with the process.

To survive in the business world, digital literacy on how technology applies to the real world is important as this has become the new norm. According to Mr Kelvin Howell to BBC, “HTG is in partnership with large tech firms like Microsoft, VMware and Citrix, to fix the problem of teaching basic knowledge on technology by running a digital academy and organizing workshops for teachers and students at Mortimer Community College in South Shields”. Nonetheless, Mr Howells believes that “hands-on experiences are more important than a degree because skills need to be updated to fit into specific business needs”.

How can the Problem of Digital Skills Shortage be Fixed?

As earlier mentioned that schools should add these skill sets to their syllabus, employers should give room for learning, and firms helping out through special educational packages, the Government has a role to play as well.

This can be achieved through supporting organizations willing to assist with funds and policies to ensure the smooth running of the programmes, ensure continuous training, and promote gender-diverse hiring and retention practices.

Dr Leila Powell recommends that “employers need to try to look beyond those experienced in a skill set; rather give the opportunity to individuals willing to learn and can be an excellent candidate for the role”, not excluding women “who are often put off once a certain job requires many skill requirements” she said.

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