Last year at the Digital Skills Fest we brought together a panel and discussed addressing the digital skills gap, we talked about what the digital skills gap is, why the skills gap is widening and what the difference in digital skills are for employees and business owners. Learn more from Rich Burn of WSx Enterprise, Jess Gosling of the UK Civil Service and Munya Badze from The Education People.
What are digital skills and the ‘digital skills gap’?
The term ‘digital skills’ covers a hierarchy of skills, from using online banking and email, to more expert level skills like AI, marketing and branding, says Jess. “Employers indicate that almost a third of vacancies they find difficult to fill are due to a lack of appropriate digital skills among applicants.” Many of the more ‘basic’ skills, like using Microsoft Word, are still digital skills and ones we take for granted. “There’s low levels of literacy in about 9 million adults in the country, so are people confident in using the basics of the gadgets we own?” says Munya, “We cannot work on the digital skills gap in isolation.”
Why is the digital skills gap widening, and for women especially?
The pandemic has exacerbated the digital skills gap, says Munya, but young people have been affected by this digital skills gap for years. “It’s about embedding skills and career knowledge throughout the curriculum for young people,” and encouraging young people into careers focused around technology-focused subjects.
From a business perspective, job descriptions are a challenge, says Rich. How much do employers lean into ‘digital’ in describing jobs in their company when digital has become so embedded into all jobs?
The same goes for schools; there’s a challenge for teachers to understand what these jobs look like when digital skills are constantly changing them?
Jess agrees, asking “How do you motivate a different generation when you’re so detached from young people and the job market is changing so quickly?”
The Learning and Work Institute noted that since 2015, the number of students taking IT or IT-related subjects has dropped 40%, and 70% of young people expect employers to invest in digital skills training on the job, but only half of the employers were able to provide that digital skills training.
– Jess Gosling
Is there a difference in the skills required for employees compared to business owners?
In short, yes there is a difference, but there is a deeper problem underpinning this question. Lucy highlights that the gap between what is expected by employers and what is actually realistic in the skills of applications – never mind what is acceptable to ask of one person in a single job role – is often an issue. Munya and Rich agree, saying employers need to be more realistic in what they’re looking for and align the skills they’re looking for with the future of their business.
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