Digital Skills are no longer a nice to have

Ashok Vaswani, CEO, Barclays UK

Source: ©Pexels

It’s a must…

With just one year until Brexit, policy makers and business leaders are continuing to work out the detail of our exit from the European Union. Amidst all the discussions taking place, there is one thing the UK can act on right now to ensure we assert our place on a global stage, and that is the need to continue to develop our digital skills.

Why we must act now

Quite simply, if we fail to digitally upskill and empower ourselves, British businesses will get left behind. Last year, the British Chambers of Commerce warned that more than 75 per cent of businesses face a digital skills shortage. Backing this up, the Federation of Small Businesses found that more than a quarter of business owners in England lack confidence in their basic digital skills, while 22 per cent believe a lack of basic digital skills among their staff is holding them back from increasing their online presence.

Why we need to do more to upskill our staff

Our own research shows a gap between supply and demand when it comes to digital skills – four in ten (42 per cent) of us don’t possess the digital skills required by most jobs. And it’s difficult to see how this picture will improve in the short term if just over a third (38 per cent) of employers offer their workers digital skills training.

It’s similarly disheartening that six in ten (62 per cent) of people are not accessing the digital training that is on offer, particularly when Barclays’ research shows that workers with digital skills can earn up to £10,000 more a year. This salary premium could make all the difference for those working towards buying a house or saving for retirement, which are often priorities for Generation X, which also happens to be the generation that is being left behind digitally.  

From digital skills gap to digital crisis

We need to take serious and swift measures to help prevent a digital skills gap becoming a digital crisis, because digital skills are no longer a ‘nice to have’ - they are an essential tool for the modern workforce. And the change needs to start from the top. Digital knowledge-sharing must be better encouraged and promoted by senior leadership teams. By providing – and investing in – training and support, businesses will not only improve the career prospects of their employees but it will also develop a thriving business with a culture of lifelong learning at its heart.

In doing so, we can help to close the skills gap between the high-tech achievers and the “forgotten middle” – those employees who are simply ‘getting by’ and afraid to supercharge their digital capabilities. New technologies can be daunting, but in order to have a well-skilled workforce, we must embrace the opportunities that technology brings by providing the right educational platforms for both employers and employees to build their digital confidence.

If we are to maintain our position as a leading digital economy, we must do more to become a digitally savvy nation. Only then will we keep up with our global competitors. Digital skills can boost earning power and productivity, and everyone deserves the opportunity to benefit. By acting now, we can cement our position at the forefront of the global digital economy post-Brexit.

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