The digital skills gap is costing the UK economy £63 billion a year in lost GDP, with 12.6 million people lacking basic digital skills. The UK government is bringing in new initiatives to encourage the younger generation to learn digital skills through education and apprenticeships, but for those already employed, the role of the company to address the digital skills gap is invaluable.
Inspiration from the source
It is clear that the government is attempting to tackle the digital skills gap from the source. Currently only 35 per cent of ICT teachers hold a relevant degree, so the investment in teacher training is important not to only ensure the best graduates see teaching as a successful career option, but to encourage and inspire the younger generation. The introduction of lucrative bursaries of up to £25,000 for computing graduates training to become a teacher in 2017/18 is a first step to encourage the new generation of teachers. The opening of the Ada National College for Digital Skills in September 2016 and the 5,000 code clubs now available in the United Kingdom, are promising moves forward in encouraging young adults to get the digital skills that are so vital in today’s growing technology industries.
Indeed, it is good to have a base knowledge from education, but companies should be aware of different learning methods. Not everyone develops in the traditional classroom environment, so apprenticeship schemes allow employees to have a ‘hands on’ approach to their development. It cannot be denied that encouraging the new generation through education is important, but apprenticeships and on-the-job training cannot be overlooked. More government funding directed into various apprenticeship schemes will undoubtedly open opportunities to those who may have not been considered before and are fantastic ways for companies to bridge the digital skills gap – this type of practical learning from a young age is invaluable. As well as concentrating on the employees, the government should make these apprenticeships desirable for the employer too. Bringing in potential tax breaks on firms that develop their own personalised long-term apprenticeship schemes would ensure that enough apprenticeships are available and encourage progress in helping the digital skills gap.
An old dog can learn new tricks
The potential for growth for ‘on the job’ training allows employees to continuously develop their skills and be inspired by the pioneering technology around them. No matter the age of the employee, if they are eager and hungry to learn new skills, the opportunity to learn and keep learning is tremendous. Hold team training days, training meetings, go to seminars and speaking events – activities like these will increase awareness of technological innovations and inspire your employees to keep learning and sharing their knowledge. As co-founders of a growing global brand, we are meticulously keeping on top of innovation and digital trends and make sure we share and disseminate information, encouraging others to do the same.
Digital skills gender gap
The issue of the gender pay and skills gap is prominent in the majority of industries and the technology sector is no exception. It cannot be denied however, that with the introduction of flexible working, the opportunities for women to excel in the workplace have increased. Yet, there is a glaring hole in the number of women studying IT related degrees. According to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Digital Skills Crisis report, 80 per cent of men have digital skills compared to 74 per cent of women and only 16 per cent of new graduates from IT related degrees were female. The launch of campaigns such as Women Into Science and Engineering (WISE), are fantastic in encouraging women of all ages to pursue and value subjects such as engineering and mathematics and to ultimately become to new generation of experts in these industries. As a company, you should proactively advocate these initiatives, or create your own. Empower women with new digital skills and that will contribute tremendously to bridging the skills gap.
If you want the best people to work for your company, you need to invest in recruitment. The digital tech economy holds 1.56 million jobs and new jobs are created 2.8 times faster than the rest of the economy. These statistics from the 2016 Tech Nation report are very interesting to note, considering the recruitment of digitally skilled graduates is still low; 13 per cent of computer graduates are still unemployed six months after leaving university. The growth of the digital economy has allowed the advertised salary to rise, the average advertised salary for digital roles grew by 13 per cent between 2012 and 2015, 19 per cent faster than the average advertised salary for non-digital roles.
A fantastic way to harvest talent is to maximise employees’ existing networks. We are proud to have some of the top tech talent working for us, and encourage our employees to recommend potential new hires to work together to achieve ground-breaking innovations. The power of word of mouth is enormous in making sure that your company is positioned as the best place to be.
Ultimately, the role of companies to bridge the digital skills gap is vital. Constantly encouraging and inspiring your workforce to keep moving with the development of technology will ultimately close the digital skills gap and allow your company to make a strong digital mark, while strengthening Britain’s reputation as a global technology leader.