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Half of UK workforce lacks essential digital skills for work

Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President at Skillsoft
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Some 17 million people nationwide lack the essential digital skills (#EDS) for work and life, according to “The hidden middle – Unlocking the essential digital skills opportunity” a report by @FutureDotNowUK, a coalition of organisations including BT, Asda, PwC and Nationwide, focusing on accelerating the UK’s workplace digital skills at scale.

  • The report suggests the challenge organisations face to reskill their workforces is significant, as only 23% of employees report having any digital skills training from employers. 
  • The research cites data from IMD world digital competitiveness 2020, where the UK ranks 41st in the world for employee training.
  • According to the report, other issues in relation to this “hidden middle” – individuals who possess very basic digital skills – include the negative impacts on business productivity and financial performance as the adoption of digital processes is slowed. 

This latest research highlights that employers will have to address the growing digital skills gap within the workforce to ensure their business is able to fully leverage every digital transformation investment that’s made. With technologies like AI and cloud becoming as commonplace as word processing or email in the workplace, firms will need to ensure employees can use such tools and aren’t apprehensive about using them. This will mean instituting lifelong learning for employees – from day 1 – constantly reskilling and upskilling workers to ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn new skills.

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Indeed, research from CBI revealed that businesses, government and individuals need to increase spending on adult education by £130bn by 2030 if they are to narrow the skills gap. Organisations will need to think holistically about managing reskilling, upskilling and job transitioning. Assessing the digital transformation requirements of the enterprise should help to direct investment priorities for training and development. Addressing and easing workplace role transitions will require new training models and approaches that include on-the-job training and opportunities that support and signpost workers to opportunities to upgrade their skills. Similarly, investing in digital talent platforms that foster fluidity, by matching workers and their skills with new work opportunities within the enterprise will be key.

Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President at Skillsoft

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