From education to employment

We must act now to improve digital literacy & dismantle the digital divide

Dan Howard, Operations Director of Learning for Wor
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Did you know that 17 million people nationwide – around half the UK’s workforce – lack the essential digital skills they need for work and life? Many individuals don’t have the basic digital literacy they need to help them stay safe online, find jobs, or demonstrate many of the skills needed in workplaces.

As Operations Director of Learning for Work at NCFE, I see first-hand how transformative empowering people to become digitally literate can be. As such, I was happy to be invited to speak as part of a panel discussion at this week’s EdTech Summit in Birmingham, on the topic of ‘Improving Digital Literacy to Drive Digital Transformation’. I talked in detail about how equipping people with these vital skills will drive digital and societal progression.

The urgent need to improve essential digital skills

It has never been more important for people to possess fundamental digital skills. The impact of digital advancement on our lives continues to grow day by day, and significant areas of our lives – from remote working, to booking an appointment with the GP, to a general reliance on technology and apps to keep in touch – all depend on us having the digital knowledge to operate in society.

Having digital literacy skills enables individuals to not only access essential information, but to apply for jobs and participate in further education, such as retraining or upskilling opportunities, too.

But due to the speed at which technological advances are being made, the World Economic Forum says that 44% of the skills that employees need to perform in their role will have changed by 2025. So how do we address this challenge of a rapidly changing landscape and a lack of digital literacy skills, to ensure that millions of workers aren’t left behind?

Upskilling throughout the education workforce

Essential Digital Skills qualifications (EDSQs) are a great starting point. Designed to meet digital knowledge gaps and provide vital skills, EDSQs can help individuals to become confident in communicating and transacting online, creating and editing, using devices and handling information responsibly.

At NCFE, we’re advocates for the power of Essential Digital Skills and are perfectly placed to support those without adequate digital skills. We offer Level 1 and Entry Level 3 qualifications that are funded and mapped to national standards for basic digital literacy. Our next webinar is also focused on this topic, detailing how Essential Digital Skills can support learners at all stages of life to progress in both learning and employment.

In the coming years, we’ll also be looking to support the Government’s plans to reform the current Functional Skills ICT qualifications to a new Digital Functional Skills qualification, scheduled to go live in 2023. As outlined by the Government, these qualifications will be imperative in “building their recognition and credibility across the labour market” when it comes to the importance of accessing and possessing these skills.

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Dismantling the digital divide

The deeper you delve into the digital divide, the more eye-opening the problem becomes; over 4.3 million people have no basic digital skills at all, 28% of people aged 60+ are offline, and those with a registered disability are four times as likely to be offline. Digital training is a challenge spanning all ages and backgrounds, so solutions must be inclusive and accessible; keeping in mind that individuals need access to the internet and technology before we can begin to train them.

Further to this, we must bear in mind that what works for one person may not work for another, so making sure digital training is tailored to a particular audience is essential. Take my own grandma for example – she decided to read a book on how to use the computer back to front before she would even consider starting her computer up!

Working together to provide solutions

There are many opportunities for collaborative work between stakeholders at all levels to boost digital literacy across the education workforce and drive transformation. At NCFE, we’ve experienced the power of partnership in such areas, working with centres who use our skills assessment tools and solutions, and adapting our products to ensure that they meet the needs of our providers.

Thinking outside the box when it comes to delivering training is also important, as there are many wonderful and innovative ways we can reskill and upskill adults. Remote training offers us a world of possibilities, helping us as educators to meet people wherever they are, in terms of both their geography and their current skillset.

The discussions we had on our panel at the EdTech Summit centred on many of the above sentiments around training, opportunities and inclusivity. I’d like to thank Steven Hope, Chief Executive Officer of C-Learning and Chair of Governors at Elements Primary School, for chairing yesterday’s panel discussion, as well as the interesting and engaging contributions from my fellow panellists Dr Ann Thanaraj (Assistant Academic Registrar at Teesside University), Sarah Knight (Head of Teaching and Learning Transformation at Jisc), and Yusuf Ibrahim (Associate Dean of Teaching & Learning Excellence at Cardiff and Vale College).

This is a critical time to be having conversations on digital literacy and how we can work together to improve, as well as widen access to these skills. I echo the EdTech Summit’s call to bridge the gap between education and technology as a means to improving digital literacy, and look forward to continuing to see sector experts and bodies working in collaboration to seek innovative solutions.

By Dan Howard, Operations Director of Learning for Work at NCFE

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in EdTech, Employability, Skills and apprenticeships, Featured voices

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