Digital skills shortage threatens pandemic recovery

Schools, colleges and universities are failing to provide young people with the digital skills required by employers according to a new report by the Learning & Work Institute.

Citing falls in young people taking IT subjects at GCSE, A-Level and within Apprenticeships over the past five years, the report finds a striking mismatch between education provision and corporate demand for digital skills.

Nearly half of employer’s report shortages in advanced digital skills in young people joining their organisations, and three quarters suggest this lack of digital skills would hurt profitability.

Low levels of digital skills among the existing workforce in sectors hit hardest by the pandemic such as retail and hospitality, make this issue particularly important for the economy as a whole.

Government-led initiatives are typically poorly focussed and too slow to deliver the skills businesses need, meaning the burden of responsibility is principally falling on individuals and businesses to fend for themselves.

So how should businesses tackle this issue to prosper? 

Executives surveyed by McKinsey cited the following four ways as the most useful for closing skills gaps within their organisation: 

1.       Building skills by retraining existing employees (53%)

2.       Acquiring skills by hiring new people or acquiring specialist businesses (20%)

3.       Redeployment by shifting skilled workers to new roles (20%)

4.       Contracting skills on a temporary or freelance basis (6%) 

But the same executives are frequently critical of existing capacity building programmes, with more than half reporting difficulties achieving intended levels of success. 

Effective capacity development and skills building is reliant on three key factors: 

1.       Emphasizing technological fluency and problem solving alongside virtual learning content,

2.       Ensuring motivation and engagement to ensure increased knowledge translates into changed behaviours

3.       Robust reinforcement over time and accountability for developing new routines 

Traditional workplace education can struggle to deliver this translation which is why our methodology at Pitman Training is strong focussed on combining digital delivery with accountability and behaviour change over time in order to ensure mastery.

If a lack of digital skills is holding your business back, for an exploratory conversation to explore whether we can help, please get in touch.