The digital skills gap is a real thing – and it’s costing the UK £63bn a year in lost income.
According to a report by the Science and Technology Committee, ‘Digital skills are becoming increasingly essential for getting access to a range of products and services. However, there is a digital divide where approximately 4.5 million of the adult UK population lack basic digital skills.
‘An estimated 5.8 million people have never used the internet at all. This digital skills gap is costing the UK economy an estimated £63bn year in lost additional GDP.’
The report also found that 90% of jobs now require digital skills to some extent and even though the government were praised for putting in place effective interventions, these findings prove there is still a lot to do to ensure that more people are comfortable and able to demonstrate knowledge of digital skills that are now a necessity.
Go.On UK, a charity set up to promote digital skills produced a digital exclusion heatmap, which pinpoints areas where people are likely to be missing out on the digital revolution. The charity defined five basic skills which they believe we need in order to navigate in a digital future.
These skills include managing information, communicating, making payments, solving problems and creating stuff online.
The government is under pressure to release their digital strategy by Nicola Blackwood, the chair of the Science and Technology Committee, which she says ‘must deliver.’
Though the UK is a leader when it comes to technology it is imperative that more action is taken to bridge this digital skills gap and ensure that we aren’t falling behind.
According to Go.On UK’s digital heat-map, a third of the population in Wales appeared to lack those basic digital skills. Furthermore the map revealed that men were less likely to be ‘digitally disadvantaged’ compared to women.
A key focus the Science and Technology Committee hope to implement is access to digital skills through various forms of training.
‘The government deserves credit for action taken so far, but it needs to go much further and faster. We need action on visas, vocational training and putting digital skills at the heart of modern apprenticeships,’ she said.
Earlier this year the Culture Secretary and Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said that the strategy was ready to be published; however its release was delayed due to the EU Referendum vote.
Though we cannot see the purpose for the delayed release, the committee have expressed concern that the document won’t provide any substantial solutions for actually bridging that gap and hopes it is more than an inspirational document proposed by the ministers.
‘It should be a strategy that actually delivers,’ the report says.
We can’t help but agree with this. If you look at other statistics coming out of this report, like 35% of computer science teachers holding relevant qualifications. It’s clear that experts need to be consulted on how to improve the situation and ensure that nobody is getting left behind when it comes to learning digital skills.
Some companies have taken a somewhat ageist approach where they feel that hiring millennials will help to bridge that gap however there is no correlation that proves this is a viable solution. Everyone is capable of learning basic digital skills with a bit of patience and guidance.
There are an abundance of courses that are available to learners of all ages which shows it’s never too late to broaden your skill set and knowledge. Companies should be making it a priority to commit to their staff’s professional development. Likewise councils and MPs should be seeking to do the same for people within the community.
We are hopeful that a strategic plan will be presented where everyone will have the opportunity to revolutionise their learning and move forward in this growing digital era.
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