Only one in 10 (11 per cent) UK workers possess digital skills, research has found.
The study, conducted by Gallup and Amazon Web Services, found that 72 per cent of businesses in the UK have vacancies for workers with digital skills and more than two thirds (68 per cent) find it challenging to hire the digital workers they need – which 45 per cent attribute to a shortage of qualified applicants.
The findings, part of a global digital skills survey of more than 30,000 workers across 19 countries, also revealed that investment in advanced digital skills could raise the annual GDP in the UK by £67.8bn.
Ben Foster, CEO of The SEO Works, said the skills shortage was down to the obsolescence caused by ever-changing digital needs. “There's no doubt that the digital skills gap in the UK is pronounced,” he said. “Covid rapidly accelerated digital adoption as everyone was forced online, and many businesses woke up to the benefits of digital. Since then, demand for emerging technologies has increased ahead of the skills required to deliver them.”
According to the study, UK workers with advanced digital skills earn 30 per cent more than those with no digital skills.
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Rafael Guper, COO and co-founder of UJJI, said the structure of the UK workforce was also a factor behind the skills gap, as government data revealed that two thirds of the UK working population was employed by SMEs and start-ups.
“Expensive subscription plans limited to a high number of employees make learning and development something exclusive of the big companies”, said Guper. “The secret is to democratise access to digital skills training by piggybacking on the devices and tools we already use every day at work, while making plans more flexible, with lower minimum employee requirements and more affordable pricing.”
Acknowledging the shortage of digitally skilled job applicants in the UK, Dipesh Mistry, learning and development manager at Kagool, suggested that upskilling workers would provide a solution to hiring struggles in more ways than one. “One of the benefits of upskilling learners with digital skills is the high cost of recruiting skilled individuals [owing] to the demand for digital skills,” Mistry said.
“These skills are high in demand, and are driven by high turnover as they are being headhunted into organisations. By doing this in house, through upskilling, learners will already understand the industry and be able to easily bridge the gap as to how this technology can help their industry.” He added that the alternative would be to outsource this to consultancies, which “can be very costly”.
Data from the survey revealed that workers with advanced digital skills expressed a higher job satisfaction (58 per cent) than those with basic or intermediate skills (43 per cent).
Deidre Carballo, customer coach at GoodHabitz, said digital skills provided ample advantages to both an individual and an organisation, leading to “an increase in ROI”. She said: “Digital skills allow for cross collaboration within the organisation beyond the current borders of physical constraints, an increase in communication and reach to markets globally, and content creation in an instantaneous manner to benefit every department.”
Carballo added that such skills could also significantly benefit HR departments across the country. “Being tech savvy and knowing how to interpret data will set you apart in the HR sphere as interviews have moved to digital platforms and the need to navigate that has become increasingly more important,” she explained.
“Another important factor to incorporate would be how to sift through and verify endless data recruiting digitally and to discern between truthful applicants and fraudsters.”