From education to employment

Plugging skills gap is key to public sector’s mass digital potential

Richard Rawcliffe, Vice President and General Manager, UK Public Sector at Dell Technologies

Unlocking the UK’s potential with digital skills  

Across the world, public sector organisations are investing in digital transformation and strategies to help future-proof services, solutions, and infrastructures and deliver improved services to the citizen. After a tumultuous two years, the UK government is in no doubt that technology is paramount to the resilience and growth of the country’s economy.    

Research shows that digital transformation could drive the UK’s economic growth and higher living standards by over £413b by 2030.  With the cost-of-living crisis intensifying across the country, by plugging the skills gap and delivering the infrastructure required for future economic growth, the public sector can match essential digital transformation with improvements in human progress.   

When it comes to planning this rebuild, some significant ideas and initiatives have been presented at an international level. Particularly notable is the EU’s emphasis on improving skills leadership within technology, which has been positioned as key to rolling out these transformative programmes. In today’s world, whether it’s an energy transition, a healthcare system refresh, or an infrastructure upgrade for government departments, technology investment is only the first step. Without the requisite skills (notably data analysis, business process automation, and digital marketing) to implement, sustain and innovate, these initiatives lose much of their value.    

This is where we’re most in danger of coming unstuck: in the execution of these ideas.  The UK economic rebuild is heavily predicated on technological advancement and its ability to master it. While private sector companies across the country continue to prioritise the adoption of digital solutions, there are concerns that, for all its efforts and ambitious objectives, the public sector is in danger of falling behind.   

To address this widening adoption gap, and truly realise the full potential of digital transformations, it’s imperative that a stronger, collaborative, and cross-sector approach is assumed.  Private sector companies and governments must work together to ensure that access to digital education and training is maximised within the country, allowing organisations to adopt at speed.   

But of course, adoption is just the tip of the iceberg. Once that technology is in place, the public sector will need the skills to master it. Currently, it’s difficult to find this level of expertise. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2030, a staggering 85 million jobs will go unfilled due to skills shortages, predicting an overall loss of $8.5 trillion in global annual revenues.  Therefore, it’s imperative that current public sector employees are trained to use the technology. Even post-Brexit, the UK remains one of the world’s leading technology hubs, but it is going to take work to maintain this position. Private sector companies, that have had more time and experience with technology, should share their expertise to expedite digital training, by targeting learning through tailored upskilling or reskilling.   

The process of upskilling existing talent can be very beneficial: it helps keep businesses competitive, increases employee retention and reduces general business costs.  

Enhance a digital learning culture  

While this skill transference must be the short-term solution, long term, it’s important that the public sector nurtures a culture of learning. Currently, just  56% of public sector employers say they have access to all or some of the skills they require for a digital future. Given the critical role technology will play in our future this figure should be much higher. Keeping up with the pace of change requires continuous learning and upskilling programmes that focus on levelling up the workforce and sharing the capabilities already available.  

The pressing question is, where do we find the time for this continuous learning? The key is empowering employees to learn in the flow of work. Once they have been given official training on how to use the technology, intuitive learning platforms must be made available. Employees, once they have a base knowledge of how to use the technology, must be allowed to ask questions as they take on tasks and get quick responses. The platforms which enable this already exist – the onus is on public sector organisations to embed them into their working culture and make it second nature for their employees to use them.   

At Dell Technologies, we offer various digital skills solutions, including our IT Transformation course that helps professionals develop skills to transform IT know-how and learn data centre skills for the digital age.   

Continuous learning is a strategy for employees today and tomorrow as the pace of innovation increases. The recent launch of the European Health Data Space showed how the public sector can innovate and lead in both the data and digital sphere when working closely with the private sector. So, let’s continue that trend, sharing in trusted expertise and catalysing more resilient economies, societies, and digital futures. We have the technology, now let’s use that to drive the human progress to match it.

By Richard Rawcliffe, Vice President and General Manager, UK Public Sector at Dell Technologies 

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