What is the digital skills gap?


There isn’t a day that goes by without a mention of the digital skills gap, together with STEM. But what is it?

A shortage in suitable digital skills …

There isn’t a day that goes by without a mention of the digital skills gap, together with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

The digital skills gap is a worldwide problem. The UK has a shortage of suitable digital skills which creates a major risk to business growth, innovation and the broader development of the working population.

Digital skills need to improve continuously for the benefit of the population, industry and UK economic growth. The competitive potential of digital technologies presents opportunities for both industry and workers, and it’s well documented that organisations with a developed ICT infrastructure that take advantage of digital technologies tend to be the most competitive. Conversely, a lack of digital investment and infrastructure places organisations at a massive disadvantage.

The contribution of digital skills to the performance of the economy is substantial. The ‘tech sector’ alone represents 6% of the UK economy with an estimated GVA per person in the region of £91,800, well above the UK average.

The first and possibly most pressing factor is the lack of digital skills amongst existing workforces. The second factor is the lack of properly trained graduates to fill digital posts. Both factors massively inhibit the growth of individual businesses and whole economies.

‘Within 20 years, 90% of all jobs will require an element of digital skills’

The lack of digital skills amongst existing workers is a particular problem for developed economies. Many large, established businesses with large workforces made up of highly skilled workers are unable to adopt the digital technologies that will make their businesses more effective.

What is the digital skills gap?

The demand for digital skills has outstripped the supply.

The digital skills gap goes way beyond just technical skills for technical jobs, it extends to business, marketing and leadership skills in today’s digital world which is causing employers across all sectors difficulties within their workforce, and in filling vacancies (especially for high level roles such as Developers).

Currently, 72% of large companies and 49% of SMEs are suffering tech skill gaps. There is a clear mismatch in the types of skills available and those demanded, which is holding back growth of tech and non-tech organisations alike. 

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Why does the digital skills gap exist?

The supply of tech talent has failed to keep up with demand which is why the UK is facing a digital skills crisis. The skills required just aren’t available in sufficient quantities to meet current or future demand.

The digital skills gap is a worldwide issue, and if not tackled, will hinder the long-term performance of organisations and economies alike.

Also, there is a lack of awareness of career opportunities within digital, sometimes reflecting skills and gender stereotypes around the types of roles that exist. Plus, barriers exist, especially for women who are currently under represented within industry and all the way down the line in related educational courses and STEM subjects.

The digital skills gap challenge

The challenge is in matching the speed of technological change with the speed of demand.

There is still lots to de done within UK education to ensure teachers have the skills to then pass these on in an inspiring way to learners to overcome the strength of the traditional gender stereotypes. Attitudes need to change within families, education, training and industry to realise the benefits of technology and the opportunities for a rewarding career amongst the workers of today and in the future.

Many organisations aren’t effectively maximising the potential of new technologies or the talents of their employees. As a result, opportunities are missed, and performance isn’t at its optimum.

What skills are needed?

All organisations are tech organisations to some degree since the competition to compete in the digital marketplace continues. The UK is rapidly moving towards an economy in which every employee needs a variety of modern skills, from entry level hires to the C-suite, being tech and data literate is now part of every job description.

The obvious areas where tech skills are required at this time are Digital Transformation, Cloud, Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence - getting the skills aligned to these and developing the skills of current employees in areas like software engineering, digital marketing, data science, user experience and user interface (UX/UI) are also critical for organisations, as well as providing relevant learning and development opportunities to employees.

How to develop digital skills

Traditional training won’t fill the gap. Organisations need to rethink and get creative on how they source talent and re-design workforce training models to ensure vacancies are filled and employees keep up-to-date with the latest digital skills.

 As an organisation, establishing exactly how the digital skills gap can be managed isn’t easy, but a combination of initiatives and organisational focus with measures will make it actionable. There are a number of organisations that can help fill specific digital skills gaps within organisations, such as QA Consulting who provide consultants with the necessary skills so that they can hit the ground running on day one of joining an organisation. They can do this because they have an award-wining Academy that provides bespoke training for the required skills needed to fit specific tech skills within organisations.

Upskilling an already trained workforce can be challenging but failing to do so puts the position of an organisation at risk.

As a candidate, there is a mass of opportunities to learn digital skills in varying degrees. Hackathon's are a great way of getting a taste of a tech project, connecting with like-minded people and gaining a foot in the door with potential employers, so hack your digital skills and get a feel for working in tech.

‘By 2022, 1.2mn new technical and digitally skilled people are needed’ 

A final word…

Organisations that effectively and promptly train their workforce to be proficient in relevant digital skills can better utilise the abundance of available digital products and services to improve their own products or services.

For individual candidates, an opportunity arises in bridging their own skills gap. Graduates and skilled workers with IT qualifications currently have their pick of the best ICT jobs, whilst those looking for a career or change of career can take advantage of the initiatives available to make a career leap into the tech industry. Hackathon's and Academies such as those provided by QA Consulting and the world-leading QA Academy provide a quick and alternative route into gaining IT skills and a career in tech.

Like any gap in a market, the digital skills gap presents an opening for smart operators to enter the digital market space ahead of the curve. 

Find out more about QA Consulting our QA Academy.

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