From education to employment

MPs Call for Digital Skills Drive To Meet Growth Of Digital Technologies

Members of the UK Parliament have called for the UK to invest in its digital skills pipeline in order to meet the growth of new technologies like Crypto, AI, and Blockchain.

In a debate yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 16th April) in the UK Parliament led by Dr Lisa Cameron MP, MPs debated the need for the UK to invest in equipping people with the skills they need to pursue careers in the digital economy.

Lisa Cameron MP who led the debate and is Chair of the influential Crypto and Digital Assets APPG in Parliament said

“The Government has set out an ambitious vision of establishing the UK as a science and tech superpower, and the Chancellor has also said that the UK is on track to become the world’s next Silicon Valley. Although the UK is well placed to harness the opportunities presented by the growth of the digital economy, considerable preparation and investment in education, training and skills will be needed to make the most of these opportunities and to ensure that the UK has the necessary talent pipeline to help it realise its goal of becoming a tech superpower. So it’s vital we ensure that right across all stages of education, from early years to higher education and actually throughout workplace training, people are given the necessary digital skills to succeed in their careers.”

Last year the Prime Minister announced

“a bold new plan to cement the UK’s place as a global science and technology superpower by 2030 – from pursuing transformational technologies like AI and supercomputing, to attracting top talent and ensuring they have the tools they need to succeed”.

Lisa Cameron MP said

“The Government has said that they want to be at the forefront of emerging technologies in key high-growth industries such as cryptocurrency and digital assets, blockchain technologies, Web3 and AI. These new developing technologies have such potential and they could be the key driver of growth for the UK economy moving forward. One of the issues that’s come to pass when we’ve been speaking to the sector is how many employers say that they can’t find the talent they need. So if we’re to realise this vision, we must ensure that the UK is investing in our talent, ensuring that future generations are equipped with the digital skills that they need to take advantage of these new career opportunities in a Digital Britain.”

Lisa said that the UK is facing fierce competition from other countries and highlighted research from the International Institute for Management Development, which measures economies on a world digital competitiveness ranking, which she said last year ranked the UK 20th out of 64 economies saying

“Although there has been a good start and we have made progress, there is scope for improvement.”

MPs also spoke of the importance of diversity and inclusion in relation to digital skills. Lisa Cameron MP said

“A recent study by Forex suggested that women are vastly underrepresented in leadership positions across the blockchain industries, with only 6% of CEOs being women, while men held 94% of the top executive positions. So I think that shows you how much work has to be done, and I have two girls and they are very digitally native. We need to make sure that that confidence continues through the classroom, through their education and into the workplace, so that women do take up these posts and work through to the top of these professions which are going to be so pivotal for the future.”

In addition to calling for digital skills to be included in the curriculum in schools, Lisa Cameron MP also called for greater partnerships between Government and industry to boost digital skills and championed examples of industry initiatives by the likes of Ripple who launched a university blockchain research initiative in 2018; Circle, a leading financial technology firm, who partnered with academic institutions through its Circle University to provide education courses to improve digital financial literacy; Tether who in February announced the launch of Tether Edu, a global education initiative dedicated to improving education skills in the areas of blockchain, artificial intelligence and coding.

The UK Government Minister for Skills Luke Hall MP said in response

“We live in a digital age. Digital skills are absolutely essential to supporting a successful economy, for ensuring people of all ages have the skills they need in their chosen careers and in the UK we have a world-leading digital economy. To enhance that position, we need to ensure people can develop digital skills right throughout their lifetime, skills that will benefit individuals and employers, and this is the time for us to act, deliver our ambitions by investigating digital education and skills and building a diverse pipeline of future talent. 

The Minister added

“These days, there are more and more digital jobs and careers where the digital elements of skills are absolutely central to the role, and we know that there are digital skills gaps to address. That gap is estimated to cost the UK economy £63 billion a year. Digital jobs grew last year by 9% and are projected to continue to grow by 9% to 2030 and significantly higher thereafter. 60% of all businesses believe their reliance on advanced digital skills will increase over the next five years.”

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