13th May 2015 Written by Skills Platform

Image: Skills Platform mind the gap.Is Britain’s economy threatened by a digital skills gap? Should this form a large part of the next Government’s addition to the Queen’s speech?

Is education ever going to keep up with the leading edge of big data, cloud computing and ever-developing social networks? Is business going to continue to find a shortfall in digital skills they need to grow? Are the skills required too niche and sector specific to be taught by schools? Are we doing enough to invest in personal development within business? Ensuring that the working population have access to training, equipment, resources and knowledge is vital.

A recent investigation in Computer Weekly said that 2 million small firms are missing out on business due to a lack of digital skills and online presence. Go ON UK CEO Rachel Neaman said: “31% of small businesses in the UK lack basic digital skills, making them less competitive than many of their peers.”

Matt Cynnamon, outgoing director of General Assembly UK, says: "A study carried out on behalf of O2 towards the end of 2013 found that Britain will need 750,000 skilled digital workers by 2017 – and if we can't support that growth, it could result in costing the UK as much as £2bn each year."

How can we create 750,000 skilled digital workers in just 3 years? A report by Next Gen Skills stated that there ‘were just 56,025 UK computer science graduates in 2011, which was a drop of 23.3% over the past 10 years.’

Benjamin Southworth, founder of Southworth Industries, recently said in a report in the Guardian: “The government has wisely introduced a heavily reworked computing A-level to address this and while I support and back this initiative as an essential part of trying to make up the shortfall, we're already facing challenges to ensure that teachers are adequately trained to deliver the curriculum. Not only do we need to increase the number of young people being trained, we must also ensure that we are training the teachers and finding skilled professionals who are interested in retraining as teachers to help excite young people and to help them understand how what they are learning translates into a meaningful, satisfying career.”

He added; “The government, the current or the next, will need to act decisively in order to ensure that we do not fail our children, young people or our growth businesses. I'd urge all the parties to ensure a firm commitment to investing in teacher training, academies, bursaries and training loans to create a UK that is rich in digital talent.”

Another report in Computer Weekly stated that European businesses will ‘rely increasingly on freelance, geographically dispersed employees as they vie to attract the top skills over the next 5 years.’ They predict that by 2020, over 80% of companies will rely on temporary or contingent workers to fill skills gaps as the war for talent intensifies. The trend will put them under pressure to invest in sophisticated data analytics technologies that will help them identify the experts they need.”