New data has revealed that 52% of the current UK workforce is lacking in required future digital skills.
Research suggests a ‘hidden middle’, where 17.1 million workers in the UK require training to reach the level of knowledge required for a tech-based future.
The study, carried out by FutureDotNow, also showed that workers are failing to recognise and understand the importance that essential tech skills play in business productivity.
It is assumed that basic digital skills can be picked up “without any training” according to the report, with many business leaders believing that the digital skills problem comes with older age. However, data shows that 44% of those offline are under 60.
Most UK firms are not addressing the need to equip their workforce with tech skills and those assumptions plus a lack of action could be “holding us back,” the report says, and creating crucial gaps in digital skills strategy.
FutureDotNow says that this leaves “the needs of large parts of the workforce under-recognised and, therefore, under-addressed”. This particularly applies during the pandemic where many are having to use digital technology from home.
Commenting on the research, Sir Peter Estlin Chair, FutureDotNow, said: “There remains a digital skills crisis in the UK, and at the heart of it is a ‘hidden middle’ between digital exclusion and advanced skills.
“That hidden middle, 17 million people without the essential digital skills for work, comprises around half the UK’s workforce. Upskilling this ‘hidden middle’ must be a critical part of the UK’s skills strategy.”
FutureDotNow has launched a ‘playbook’ aiming to help businesses “assess the digital skills gaps of their workforce and how to address them”.
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The organisation, a coalition of firms including Asda BT and PwC, says it aims to get at least 75% of adults training from their employer and obtaining the essential digital skills for work by 2024.
Estlin continued: “There are competitive and productivity opportunities if we act now; digital is the most powerful tool to revolutionise our businesses and benefit our workforce.”
A poll carried out in January highlighted the concern among business leaders about a ‘shortfall’ in digital skills in the coming years.
Conducted by FDM Group, the data indicated that almost two-thirds of businesses surveyed see a skills shortfall as one of the most significant challenges facing their company.
Commenting at the time of release, Rod Flavell, CEO for FDM Group, said: “The Covid-19 outbreak has wreaked havoc for businesses, with millions of workers missing out on vital skills development due to furlough and remote working constraints.
“With the added pressure of strict lockdown measures forcing many people to juggle childcare alongside their day job, companies need to move quickly to increase skills provision as a matter of urgency.”