The £63 Billion Digital Skills Gap

don't be like this guy. Learn some digital skills.

For those who know me well, know I love technology. To those who know technology understand the need for Digital Skills.

So for me, there has never been a better time to be alive. Today’s world from a technology point of view is changing so quickly it’s hard to keep up.

This is both good and bad depending on what side of the fence you sit, when you were born and also your core relationship with technology.

Let’s give a couple of examples.

If you are born after the year 1987 and branded with the buzzword millennial, then chances are, you have a well-stocked armory of so-called ‘digital skills’.

On the flip side, if you belong to a different generation who grew up without the internet, you may find yourself fighting an uphill battle.

Generations aside, there is one thing we can say for sure.

The digital age has expanded into all areas of our lives and we now live in a metaphorical adapt or die environment. So much so that it has been stated by the House of Lords that Digital Skills should be taught on the same level as literacy and numeracy.

As hard as it is to imagine day to day life without running water or electricity, take a second and think…could you survive a day without the internet? I bet you couldn’t think of a day where you didn’t use a digital skill of some sort.

The need for digital skills in our workplace is growing at a rate which is far outpacing the rate in which people are being trained in them. According to a survey by Capgemini, 90% of companies are lacking in digitally skilled employees with only 46% of companies are investing in digital skill training or hiring.

Specifically, the UK needs 745,000 more people with digital skills by 2017 with the shortfall currently costing the Uk economy an estimated £63 billion per year in lost income. On top of this, it is thought that 12.6 million adults lack basic digital skills.

However, it’s not doom. It’s not even gloom.

It’s a massive opportunity.

An opportunity for people of all ages to skill up, get a better job or bring more value to the job you currently have. More good news, it has never been easier to learn if you can get over that initial barrier.

So before we dive into how to get these elusive digital skills everyone seems to need first we need to know one thing?

What exactly are Digital Skills?

This is a pretty broad question and according to The Science and Technology Committee, there is no single definition.

Brilliant.

Although it is generally understood that digital skills are the ability to use computers and digital devices to access the internet, the ability to code or create software and the ability to critically evaluate media, and “to navigate knowingly through the negative and positive elements of online activity and make informed choices about the content and services they use”.

All being said, a bit of a mouthful.

At a basic level, Digital Skills are the ability to use digital devices and understand the information they give to you. We’ll leave the coding for another day.

You can find the Digital Skills for the Uk Economy Report here.

The thing about learning.

Ok so depending on your current level of exposure to technology, obtaining these skills doesn’t sound too tricky. Chances are you have a computer in the house and most of you will be armed with a smartphone likely to be within reach of you at all times.

With access to one or both of these devices comes the ability to access something called Google.

If there is something you want to know chances are if you can access Google you can find the answer.

From my experience being close to people who did not grow up in such an environment, learning digital skills can be quite daunting.

I don’t know about you but if I don’t know the answer to something this is my first port of call. Open Google, type in your question, click one of the links at the top of the list and read. Now I bet you a couple of shillings you know more than you did 10 seconds ago. If you need more info, click the back button and do some more digging.

Open Google, type in your question, click one of the links at the top of the list and read. Now I bet you a couple of shillings you know more than you did 10 seconds ago. If you need more info, click the back button and do some more digging.

This is how I would do it.

This isn’t how people of a slightly different generation do it. If they don’t know, they don’t know. That isn’t to say they can’t learn but there is often an underlying frustration.

Perhaps if we strip it even further back getting on to Google in the first place is a barrier to entry?

learn digital skills using google
Using Google…

 

Perhaps it is also a minor fear of failing?

The future (is around the corner).

Put simply, this is something that needs to be solved pretty quickly.

Here’s why.

Over the next few years, a number of outside factors could affect the Uk’s workforce.

3,534,071,998 (and counting) people are connected to the internet. In percentage terms, that is 40% of the world’s population. In 1995 it was 1%.

That leaves 60% of the world still offline.

On the face of it, more people coming online seems like a good thing. More people online means more revenue for businesses able to trade internationally over the internet. Good right?

Maybe.

Also on the rise is the freelance remote worker. Highly skilled digital natives able to work anywhere with an internet connection. More and more companies are relying on these highly skilled freelancers to bridge the skill gap.

What happens when the demand for highly skilled workers goes up? The already small pool we have to pick from gets even smaller.

The Uk currently leads Europe on Tech but we need a solid strategy on digital skills to stay ahead.

There is a requirement of our “millennials” to pay it forward. For now at least we cannot rely on government policies to fill the void.

We all know someone who could do with some lessons in the Digital Skills department.

I challenge you to send them a smoke signal and offer up your services.

Let’s make 2017 the year of the digital skill. Be it teaching a family member to use Google or showing someone how to find the answer to a problem they have.

Each little thing we pay forward will have a domino effect on those less digitally capable than ourselves.

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