From education to employment

Current and future demand for digital skills – a call to action

Minister for Digital, Margot James

We live in a world where new technologies play an increasingly important role across the economy and society; businesses need to continually update their workers’ skills in order to remain competitive, and individuals need to keep up to date with the changing digital landscape. I want the UK to have a world leading digital economy which supports business needs and promotes technological innovation.

In order to achieve this it is crucial that everyone has the digital skills they need to fully participate in society. Whether this be the basic digital skills people need to maximise life’s opportunities, the general digital skills increasingly needed in almost every job, or the specialist knowledge for particular technical roles. I want to ensure that businesses across all sectors can get the digitally skilled employees they need. Many companies are experiencing real difficulties in finding such employees. With demand growing, particularly for advanced and specialist skills, such as data analytics, there is an urgent need to intensify efforts to boost the number of skilled workers. We should be looking to all areas of society to find people with potential and talent to fill these roles.

Digital skills are key to improving productivity, especially in those most excluded parts of the country, often outside urban centres, and are an essential ingredient to help the Government and industry deliver the Industrial Strategy. If we can crack the system to help raise levels of digital skills across the country this will be a great step in driving up opportunities and production throughout the UK. There is no silver bullet for this and it will need collaboration across government, industry and the voluntary sector.

To develop solutions and ensure we focus efforts in the right place, we need to better understand the demand for digital skills, both now and in the future.

To do this, and to inform Government policy, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport commissioned two reports:

1. No longer optional: employer demand for digital skills

The first report – No longer optional: employer demand for digital skills looked at the current demand for digital skills (analysing over nine million online digital job vacancies).

The first report paints a vivid picture of demand across the country and shows that at least 82% of advertised openings require some level of digital skills. It also shows just how quickly the skills landscape changes with demand for skills that hardly existed a few years ago growing rapidly. For example, demand for the relatively new skills of data analytics is likely to grow faster than for any other digital skills cluster over the next five years. Importantly, this demand is not just felt by the tech sector but across the whole economy.

Having the right digital skills is not only essential for employers, it also has significant benefits for workers. Our research shows that having specific digital skills, such as search engine optimisation for marketers, workers can reduce their risk of automation by a dramatic 59%. Digital skills also carry a large wage premium. Overall, roles requiring digital skills pay 29% (£8,300) over those roles that do not (£37,000 vs £28,700) with the premium increasing at higher skill levels.

2. What digital skills to adults need to succeed in the workplace now and in the next 10 years?

The second report – What digital skills to adults need to succeed in the workplace now and in the next 10 years? considered how the demand for digital skills might evolve in the future.

The second report looks ahead and finds there are growing indicators that digital skills should not be looked at in isolation from other skills, pointing to a need for ‘21st century skills’, especially interpersonal skills, cognitive competencies and learning strategies with creative use of digital skills increasingly important.

I am delighted to lend my support for these reports which provide detailed insight on the current and future demand for digital skills. This information can help address an increasingly important and urgent challenge – how to resolve the UK’s growing digital skills gaps.

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries

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